Opinion: How can we prevent prescription drug abuse while still adequately treating pain?
Prescriptions for painkillers in the United States have nearly tripled in the past two decades and fatal overdoses have reached epidemic levels, exceeding those from heroin and cocaine combined, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Prescription drugs in the past were only prescribed for those who were dying or had severe cancers. This was until pain became the 5th vital sign. Once pain became the 5th vial sign it became part of what doctor’s had to look for and treat when it came to your health thus we have the readily available prescriptions of painkillers handed out to any person complaining of headache, toothache, and backache, whatever.
So how can we prevent prescription drug abuse while still adequately treating pain?
As I mentioned above pain is not the 5th vital sign for health. So the first step to treating pain while also preventing prescription drug abuse would be to remove this 5th vital sign. Prescription painkillers shouldn’t be readily available to anyone who has minor pain. Prescription drugs should only be available to those who have severe pain. Once not as many people are being prescribed prescription narcotics it will also prevent prescription drug abuse.
Second thing to do is train the doctors. Many doctors take years and years of medical courses. They intern, they literally study for a good portion of their life. And little to none of this training is on addiction; addiction to prescription drugs specifically. Doctor’s should be highly trained on when it is necessary to prescribe a prescription drug and when it is not. They also should be highly trained on what to look for when someone is exhibiting signs of doctor shopping or addict behavior. Many doctors’, because pain is the 5th vital sign sometimes feel that they have to prescribe something for their patients such as a prescription painkiller. If they had a better understanding of when and how to tell if people really need those drugs them might be better at prescribing them.
Also, I believe that pain clinics should be all together gone. Pain clinics, pill mills, or whatever you want to call them, are part of what fuels this country’s prescription drug abuse problem. And there has been significant crack down on those pain clinics which is great. But I feel as if they should just be taken out of the picture all together. Once this is done it will be up to individual doctors who are trained on when to prescribe, how much and how to spot addicts to prescribe any painkillers.
Another great way to treat pain while also preventing prescription drug abuse is to create a better record system between doctors and hospitals. Many times prescription drug addicts will doctor shop meaning they go to many doctors to get many prescriptions. If all the doctors and healthcare systems could have a system for prescriptions that are recorded an addict would be unable of pulling a fast one on a doctor.