Quick Take: How can the US best deal with opioid addiction?
Doctors must take responsibility in reducing pain reliever addiction
By Rathna Muralidharan
Though the Food and Drug Administration’s potential restrictions on prescription medications are a step in the right direction, another huge factor left untreated is the source of these medications: the doctors.
Doctors need to be more aware and attentive when dealing with their patients to better understand their level of pain, and should only prescribe these addictive medications on a last-resort basis.
Pain is relative, which is why passing stricter laws for the application of pain medication will be ineffective on its own. What constitutes intense pain for one patient may be tolerable for another. For this reason, doctors must be more attentive in analyzing the patients’ situations and resolving how to treat them.
As professionals, doctors are the only ones who are thoroughly knowledgeable about the effects of pain relievers, and thus play a vital role in controlling this problem. By taking a little more time to properly assess the situation, doctors would be able to more accurately prescribe the proper dose of medication and ensure that prescriptions are not being abused. Spending more time with a patient may also enable doctors to find a different form of treatment that does not involve prescription pain relievers, thereby avoiding a situation in which the patient can become addicted.
Too often, patients are left to diagnose their own pain, leaving plenty of room for potential drug abuse. Having doctors play a more active role in distributing prescription medications will be vital to battling addiction. Though this will not completely eradicate the problem, it will help to relieve the nation of this growing problem.
Passing stricter regulations on the use of prescription pain medication is a strong approach, but it is only half the battle. In order to diminish national addiction, it is necessary to regulate the source of it, by requiring doctors to be more attentive towards their patients needs. Attacking the issue provides a better chance of contesting prescription medication addiction as well as creating a more effective medical field.
Muralidharan is a freshman in the School of International Service.
FDA must do more than alter wording of guidelines to prevent addiction
By Madison Freeman
The Food and Drug Administration has been under pressure for years to increase restrictions on commonly abused prescription drugs, and for good reason.
Prescription drug abuse in America that has been categorized as an ““epidemic”:http://www.whitehouse.gov/ondcp/prescription-drug-abuse” by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Prescription drug overdoses claim more lives each year than traffic accidents, and the numbers are only growing, as abuse rates have been surging in recent years. The federal government should take strong, multilateral action to combat this issue, and as part of that action the FDA must introduce decisive new regulations that help prevent abuse. The FDA’s most recent guidelines are not a solution, nor are they a step forward towards reversing the trend.
In order to make a real impact on prescription drug abuse, the federal government must create a program that deals with the issue on multiple levels. The 2011 Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Plan, put forward by the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), outlines four areas in which the federal government can take action: education, monitoring, disposal and enforcement.
The plan advocates for education of both physicians and patients, as well as the general public, on the dangers of prescription drug abuse. It suggests the implementation of prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) within states to catch “doctor shopping” (visits to multiple doctors to receive more doses of prescription drugs) and other prescription fraud. The plan also advocates for the creation of drug disposal systems to reduce the number of excess prescription drugs in the home, and for providing law enforcement with the tools necessary to combat “pill mills” and improper prescriptions.
I agree wholeheartedly with this plan, but the ONDCP needs to turn its words into firmer action. While the plan is good on paper, authorities must aggressively enforce it to make an actual difference. Americans need to be educated not just in the dangers of prescription drug abuse, but also in how to recognize addiction in themselves and in loved ones, how to deal with it by reporting symptoms to physicians or contacting a national organization for support, and the options for recovery and treatment.
Monitoring systems must form a network between states and connect to every physician to form a tight net. Disposal systems need to be widely available, and information about them must be distributed with each prescription. Law enforcement must make a much stronger effort to expose and deal with illegal prescription provision and patient fraud with intent to acquire drugs illegally.
The FDA has responded to calls for greater regulation of prescription drugs, particularly opioids, with a plan to rewrite guidelines for physicians prescribing the oft-abused narcotics. Their highly publicized plan is marketed as a firm push against abuse, but in reality the changes are insignificant. Under the new guidelines, physicians are encouraged to prescribe certain types of opioids only under “severe” pain, rather than “moderate to severe pain”, a distinction that doesn’t make that great of a difference when pain is self-reported by patients, and when judgements change based on the physician.
Even if these guidelines prevent some unnecessary prescriptions, they only apply to 10 percent of the opioids prescribed. To make a real difference, the FDA needs to institute guidelines preventing repeated prescriptions for patients, and recommend non-addicting alternatives to opioids.
The FDA cannot be allowed to mask inefficiency and passiveness in response to a major issue with pseudo-reform. Along with a general federal push to end the epidemic of prescription drug abuse, the FDA must institute real restrictions for prescribing addictive painkillers.
Freeman is a freshman in the School of International Service.
Drugs, prescription or not, are still bad
Sometimes it feels like the majority of American society is taking some kind of prescription drugs. Whether it’s a painkiller or some other medication, everyone seems to be using it. This has become the norm and it does not seem shocking to anyone. There is a growing problem of drug addiction and the FDA is finally planning to take action, but it may be too late.
In terms of numbers, by 2002 opioid drugs took the lives of more humans than heroin and cocaine 1990s. Traditionally, we think of cocaine and heroin as deadly, but statistics show that prescription drugs can be deadlier.
On the optimistic side, although drug addiction rates are rising, as a comparison, thousands of Americans were smokers during the 20th century. The U.S. was the country that came out with the famous Marlboro cowboy and the iconic cigarette advertisements. Cigarette advertisements were prevalent in almost all magazines, television channels and on the radio. However, the 21st century arrived and the U.S. quickly became the only country in the world that had a decrease in lung cancer patients. The reason for this was that America’s campaign against smoking was extremely effective, and anti-tobacco campaigns managed to convince people that smoking is unhealthy.
The government has to start fighting a war on prescription drugs. Today’s society has a utopian image of what these drugs are and believes that if a doctor prescribes something, it simply can’t be bad. We tend to trust everything we get from professionals, as if doctors can never make mistakes.
Unfortunately, addiction to prescription painkillers is similar to dietary pill addiction. When people begin to use the medications, they start to believe that their body is going through a transformation, that they don’t feel as much pain. However, the moment they stop using the pills, they begin to feel as if they are gaining weight again or as if their pains are escalating. If our society knew that these pills have such serious side effects, I doubt that so many people would be willing to take dietary pills, let alone prescription drugs that are just as addictive and self-destructive as the dietary pills.
It seems as if we forget that at the end of the day, drugs are still drugs. There is a reason that our teachers always told us over and over again not to take them. The reason is simple: drugs, medically prescribed or not, most of the time are unhealthy and will have negative consequences. Hopefully, in the near future the government will take control of the situation and start a marketing war on prescription drugs. Hopefully they will convince people that prescription drugs can be just as bad as cigarettes.
Sindyukov is a freshman in the School of Communication.