Doctors prescribe opioid painkillers to treat opioid addiction, finds study

Doctors prescribe opioid painkillers to treat opioid addiction, finds study

The opioid crisis in not new in America. Earlier, the number of prescriptions for opioid pain relievers skyrocketed to nearly 207 million in 2013, from approximately 76 million in 1991. According to public health officials in the United States, the current opioid crisis, which killed over 33,000 people in 2015, is the worst epidemic in American history.

The most commonly prescribed opioid pills are PercocetVicodin, or OxyContin, which are unlikely to cause an addiction if used appropriately at prescribed doses. But when these drugs are taken in exceedingly high doses, or injected directly, they provide an intoxicating high, even in people with no history of drug addiction. A regular consumption of opioid medications is associated with the subsequent development of tolerance, dependence and addiction.

American doctors are increasingly using buprenorphine, an opioid, for the treatment of opioid use disorder, however, a large proportion of patients are still getting access to non-buprenorphine opioids during the treatment process. A study published in the journal Addiction in February 2017 has highlighted the trend indicating that many people seeking treatment are being prescribed with opioid painkillers, which is giving rise to harrowing results.

Use and abuse of buprenorphine

The study, titled “Non-buprenorphine opioid utilization among patients using buprenorphine” explained as to why substance abuse therapies are not as effective as they should be. As per the researchers, most people stopped taking medication long before the completion of the therapy.

As part of the study, the researchers focused on the data of 38,000 individuals, who were prescribed with buprenorphine for easing withdrawal pangs, during 2010-2012. Buprenorphine is a partial opioid antagonist used specifically for the treatment and management of opioid addiction and withdrawal. Buprenorphine’s advantage over methadone is that one need not visit a doctor as it can be administered in the privacy of home.

Other important conclusions drawn from the study were:

  • Getting a behavioral therapy is as important as going through detox therapy.
  • Many patients quit behavioral therapy midway since it is not mandatory.
  • Some patients continue to receive prescriptions for opioid painkillers by other doctors.
  • Many patients sell their buprenorphine on the streets to be bought by other drug users.
  • A high percentage of patients prescribed with buprenorphine were also getting other powerful medications.

While the U.S. administration is continuously making efforts to fight the ongoing opioid crisis, it is yet to be seen whether a new plan of action will work its way to find a long-term solution to the opioid problem plaguing the country.

Taking steps to curb opioid addiction

People addicted to opioids can face a relapse and this should not be considered as failure of the treatment. The nature of opioid addiction is such that it may take a significantly long time before individuals can sustain themselves without the addictiveness of the drug. However, it is important to note that opioid relapses can be fatal, and therefore, one needs to seek preventive medications on a long-term basis.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), prescription opioids are one of the three classes of prescription medications, apart from stimulants and central nervous system (CNS) depressants, which are being overly prescribed in the U.S.

Helping a loved one battle addiction requires extreme care and access to treatment backed by scientific evidence. At the California Drug Addiction Helpline, you will get to know about specialized treatment options as well as the best drug rehab centers in California. Call at our 24/7 helpline number 855-980-1946 or chat online with our specialists to know more about the best rehab facilities in California.