Report blames doctors for overprescribing painkillers
The current wave of opiod and heroin addiction and overdoses is tied to the overprescribing of painkillers by doctors, according to a report of a team of researchers.
Based on analysis of data since 2002, scientists at Johns Hopkins University, Brandeis University and the University of North Florida. found that new cases of non-medical abuse has declined, yet painkiller overdose deaths are on the rise, and that, they say, suggests that recreational use of painkillers is not a key driver of the opiod crisis.
"I think we have overestimated the benefits of prescription opioids and underestimated their risks," said study co-author Dr. Caleb Alexander at the Johns Hopkins' Bloomberg School of Public Health.
To help solve this problem, the researchers suggest that some of the same public health strategies used for controlling disease outbreaks can be effective for bringing the opioid crisis under control, such as focusing on prevention and access to treatment. Prevention strategies outlined in the report include increased public education on the risks of prescription opioids and wider use of state prescription drug monitoring program data to alert doctors to possible doctor-shopping by patients looking for painkillers.
The study also recommends increasing access to the addiction medicine buprenorphine and ensuring that first responders, syringe exchange programs, and family members of high risk opioid users have access to the opioid overdose antidote, naloxone.