Are Doctors Prescribing New Problems?

Survey: prescriptions deliver more opioids than needed.

Tess Benham is the Senior Program Manager for the National Safety Council Prescription Drug Overdose Initiative.

​Many doctors in the United States may, with the best of intentions, be contributing to our nation's quickly growing opioid addiction. A recent NSC survey shows 99% of doctors prescribe highly addictive opioids for longer than the three days recommended by the Center for Disease Control (CDC). In our current medical community and amidst an overdose epidemic, doctors are overestimating the efficacy of opioids and underestimating the impact of safer alternatives. In an attempt to help relieve a patient's pain, doctors may be prescribing an entirely new set of problems because of opioids' highly addictive nature. 

Doctors' Misconceptions

Opioids have commonly been used to treat pain, but in reality, they are not the most effective in doing so. According to the NSC survey, 74% of doctors incorrectly believe morphine and oxycodone (both opioids) are the most effective way to treat pain. While pain may be partially relieved temporarily, the side effects of opioids are much more dangerous. CDC reports year-after-year increases in prescription drug overdoses for the past 11 years. We are trading one problem for another

A Patient's Influence

The NSC survey also shows that physicians are unnecessarily prescribing opioids because they are overestimating a patient's expectations. Two-thirds of doctors say the expectations their patients have of getting opioids impact their decision to prescribe them. Patients have the right to safe and effective pain relief, and doctors should carefully evaluate the benefits and risks of treatment options. 

Be Your Own Advocate

The best course of action is to be informed, understand the risks of opioids and how they affect your body. There is no evidence that long-term opioid use is effective at reducing chronic pain. In fact, the most effective pain relief is taking one Extra-Strength Tylenol with one Advil. 

Ask your doctor for safer alternatives to opioid pain medication – especially if you have a risk factor for addiction. Keep your prescriptions in a safe and secure place. Often, people become addicted after taking prescriptions of family members and friends. If you need to take opioids, talk to your doctor about limiting the amount you take. 

You are your own best advocate. Ask questions, be informed and understand the risks so you can ensure a more effective healing with a healthy and happy lifetime to follow. 

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