A recent story in the Associated Press discusses the association between the great increase in prescription painkiller sales in the United States and the increasing rates of prescription addiction and opiate addiction in particular. Increased overdose deaths (more than 15,000 a year by now and the leading cause of accidental deaths in many states) and a slew of new prescription addicts in an increasing number of states including Florida, New York’s Appalachia, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, and more are making prescription addiction the fastest growing and most alarming epidemic in the country.
While there are a number of likely explanations at play here, I believe we need to address the following five immediately:
- Reduce addiction stigma so individuals with newly developed prescription addiction problems feel more comfortable seeking addiction treatment or other help.
- Get better at assessing, and intervening, in problematic drug use patterns before they become full fledged addiction.
- Find a way to control online prescription sales in order to stem the huge flow of relatively uncontrolled medication, and especially opiate and benzodiazepine, prescriptions.
- Educate general practitioners, who are prescribing more and more of these medications, about proper prescription procedures and oversight as well as about prescription addiction issues.
- Create a federal prescription monitoring system that will allow us to monitor prescription patterns across state lines to reduce diversion and doctor shopping.