Study Shows Doctors are Often ‘Problem Prescribers’ for Deadly Drugs

Science & Medicine

Challenging a widely held belief that the abusers of narcotic painkillers are able to support their drug habit through illegal means, a new government study suggests that the epidemic is caused largely by family doctors handing out prescriptions to users.

Dr. Tom Frieden, the director for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), who conducted the study, said the research showed the need for greater focus on doctors who are “problem prescribers.” It turns out that licensed doctors are the primary source for users of narcotic painkillers even when they are chronic abusers.

The study was just published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). It mimics findings of a 2012 investigation, which found that over half of the prescription overdoses in Southern Claifornia were contributable to doctor’s prescriptions. That study provided a rich database for doctors who abuse their ability to provide prescriptions.

The crisis of addiction to pharmaceutical drugs is almost always minimized compared to the ‘war on drugs’ which has global ramifications, and is failing miserably. The prices for heroin, cannabis and cocaine have dropped, and the availability of these drugs in purer forms is widely available. the U.S. includes cannabis, a known medicinal plant, with damaging ‘street’ drugs when they don’t belong in the same category. The US drug war has been called ineffective and indefinite, with over $51 billion being spent annually to wage it.

“At this point, virtually everyone recognizes that this is a serious problem that has been getting much worse,” Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in an interview with The Times. “What we now are figuring out is what’s going to work to reverse it.”

Frieden said problem doctors are those “who may just not realize that the risks are so high and benefits so limited,” as well as “a very small number of prescribers — who are using their medical licenses to sell drugs.”

“There is a coalescing recognition of what’s going to be important,” he said. “One is clearly going to be PDMPs [(prescription drug monitoring programs)] — and PDMPs that are mandatory, real time and actively monitored so that the folks running them identify problem patients and problem doctors.”

Meanwhile, drugs like OxyCotin and Vicodin – easily handed out in prescription form to a someone who can then fill it legally at their local pharmacy, cause more than 16,000 fatal overdoses every year. Pharmaceutical drug-related deaths have actually surpassed traffic accidents in the US.

The CDC analyzed data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, an annual snapshot of the use of illegal drugs, such as heroin and cocaine, as well as the “nonmedical use” of prescription drugs. They found that chronic abusers, defined as people who take pills at least 200 days out of the year, received their drugs most often from their doctors. Friends and family were the next most reliable source. Only 15% came from illegal dealers.

Furthermore, more people die from the use of pharmaceutical painkillers every year than cocaine and heroine use combined. It looks like the pharmaceutical companies, have their pushers – and sadly, it is not who we think.