ATS_Blogs_Launch_DoctorGivesMedOverdosePatient

Overdose Patients Still Getting Drugs From Doctors

intmedPatients who are admitted into the Emergency Room for prescription painkiller overdoses are often still given prescriptions for their drug of choice well after they have had near fatal problems with pills. This is likely due to the fact that ER doctors very rarely communicate with the patient’s prescribing doctor. This significant oversight has caused many patients to continue abusing prescription painkillers and risk further overdose. Researchers at Boston University School of Medicine came to this conclusion after investigating information provided by insurance companies. The study was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

“Seventy percent of patients who overdosed were getting their drugs from the same doctor who prescribed the narcotic before the overdose…This signals a problem with the health system, but I don’t think it necessarily fingers doctors as being bad doctors,” explained Dr. Marc Larochelle, an assistant professor of medicine at Boston University School of Medicine.

Doctors who are treating patients that are prescribed prescription painkillers cannot rely on them disclosing the fact that they overdosed. Those who are addicted are not likely to admit to this for fear that their drugs will be taken away or they will be forced into treatment. In order to effectively handle this problem, Larochelle says that Emergency Room doctors and prescribing doctors have to communicate.

This is especially important because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released information stating that prescription drug overdoses are at an all-time high. According to reports, 47,000 people in the United States passed away from drug overdoses, that is a 14% increase from the year before. These numbers are only projected to increase if doctors are not aware that their patients are being treated for overdoses from the pills that are being prescribed.

As the prescription painkiller problem continues to grow, medical doctors are being cautioned about perpetuating the problem by prescribing the drugs to people who abuse them, however the problem may be better addressed if more information was shared, such as with prescription drug monitoring databases. Emergency Room doctors, patients, loved ones and other medical professionals need to maintain communication for the safest prescribing practices and to help minimize future overdoses.

More Doctors Prescribing Buprenorphine

sacovergDrug treatment programs have long been regarded as the best solution to help someone get clean from illegal drugs. While the country grapples with the increasing use of drugs like heroin and prescription painkillers, some wonder why more addicts are not seeking help from rehabilitation facilities.

Experts agree that the stigma attached to drug abuse prevents some people from feeling comfortable in enrolling in a treatment facility. In addition to the perceived shun from society, users often have a difficult time admitting that they need help and following through with their admittance into treatment. Many point out that the painful withdrawal symptoms from heroin or prescription painkillers cause addicts to give up their quest for sobriety in favor of preventing the painful, flulike symptoms. However, a recent study shows that the gap between addicts and at some forms of treatment might be getting smaller, due to more physicians ability to prescribe medication to help with the process.

Buprenorphine is a medication that, when taken, helps to alleviate the withdrawal symptoms that people feel when they stop using heroin or prescription painkillers. In order to obtain a prescription for buprenorphine, someone has to go to a doctor that is approved to prescribe, or they have to turn to a treatment program. In the past, many addicts have found it difficult to locate a doctor with this ability, but now more and more doctors are obtaining the certificate that allows them to treat addicts. In fact, it has been reported that 98.9% of physicians were not licensed to dispense buprenorphine prior to 2011. That number has since dropped to 46.8%. The dramatic increase of doctors who are willing and able to help treat opioid dependency has led to a 74% increase in the availability of this form of treatment.

It must be stated, though, that the administration of buprenorphine alone doesn’t cure an addiction to heroin or painkillers. Long-term maintenance programs don’t provide the full solutions either, as the end goal should be to get off any opioid if at all possible. This is evidenced by the fact that buprenorphine itself is a drug that is abused on the street, and why doctors who prescribe the medication typically refer people to a treatment facility to address the full issues related to the substance abuse problem. If you are looking for help to recover from an opiate addiction, contact us today we’ll help you locate a treatment program that works.

How Responsible are Doctors and Pharmacists for Prescription Drug Addiction?

A recent West Virginia Supreme Court ruling could potentially impact the fate of physicians and pharmacists throughout the state. A 3-2 vote made it legal for addicts to sue their doctor or pharmacist for allowing the person to become addicted to prescription painkillers. Since the decision was made the medical community and the general public are divided over the future implications of this decision.

Prescription drug abuse has long since reached epidemic proportions and in states like West Virginia, and thousands of people are dying because of their addiction to painkillers. Because of the extreme gravity and speed that prescription painkillers are taking over people’s lives, extreme decisions like the one made in the West Virginia may be called for.

One of the most common ways that addicts acquire their prescription painkillers is through doctor-shopping. This means that they go from doctor to doctor complaining of ailments and receive prescriptions to various narcotics. Many states have instituted a prescription monitoring programs in an attempt to avoid excessive doctor-shopping and other forms of prescription drug fraud. The tool that can be accessed by other doctors and pharmacists is designed to allow doctors to input the information from their visit with a patient as well as review the patient’s prescription drug history.

The decision to allow people who become addicted to prescription drugs to sue doctors and pharmacists is extreme but will likely give many professionals pause before liberally prescribing prescription painkillers.

“It may cause some physicians to curb or stop treating pain altogether for fear of retribution should treatment lead to patient addiction and/or criminal behavior. It may create additional barriers for patients seeking treatment for legitimate chronic pain due to reduced access to physician. It would allow criminals to potentially profit for their wrongful conduct by taking doctors and pharmacists to court,” explained The West Virginia Medical Association in response to the new ruling.

It could be very difficult to prove that a particular doctor or pharmacist was the cause of someone’s addiction, yet there is no doubt that the prescribing industry has certainly played its part, whether knowingly or unknowingly, in the escalation of the prescription drug problem in America.

Prescription Drugs Affecting More Newborns

naspediatricsDue to the prescription drug epidemic that the United States is still battling, there has been a significant increase in the number of babies being born addicted to narcotic painkillers. A recent study looked into the problem of infants born addicted to drugs, something called Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS). The study first delved into the babies addicted to drugs in general, however, researchers noticed that many babies who were born with an addiction had mothers who were not taking illicit drugs. In fact, these mothers were being treated by doctors who were prescribing them narcotic painkillers.

Prescription opioids like oxycodone and hydrocodone are very similar to heroin. They produce the same euphoric effect and they have painful withdrawal symptoms. Painkillers are one of the most abused drugs in the country, and legislators and law enforcement have been working tirelessly to reduce the amount of people that abuse the pills.

Researchers from Vanderbilt University Medical Center studied information from 112,029 women who were pregnant in Tennessee. They found that of all the babies born addicted to drugs, nearly two-thirds of the mothers had filled prescriptions for at least one painkiller during the pregnancy. Other drugs were also present, including prescription antidepressants, nicotine and street drugs. The study appears in the journal Pediatrics.

The study is important because it specifically looks at the prescription painkiller problem and how it is affecting newborns and mothers. It shines a light on the need for more doctor education regarding painkiller abuse and the importance of drug monitoring systems that would allow doctors to see if their patient is exhibiting drug-seeking behaviors.

“Historically, drug withdrawal for newborns has been described among illicit drug use such as heroin or women treated for previous opioid abuse. This is really one of the first studies to look at legal prescriptions for pregnant women. And it draws attention to what is going on in our nation,” explained Stephen Patrick, a neonatologist who specializes in infant drug dependency.

Hopefully, for the sake of our children, doctors will start to pay more attention to what they are prescribing to women who are pregnant, as there are many other damaging effects that can cause harm to the babies than NAS, including a wide range of complications before and after birth.

Senate Looking For Ways To Prevent Prescription Drug Abuse

aphaThe Senate has formed a committee called HELP (Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions), that is geared to preventing prescription drug abuse. The committee recently heard from the American Pharmacists Association (APhA) ways that the Senate could curb the amount of prescription drug abuse in our nation. The APhA recommended several ways in which the U.S. government could put a significant dent in the growing painkiller epidemic.

The APhA told the Senate that the DEA needed to be more vocal about health professionals’ roles and the expectations that the DEA had for them. It is a relatively new concept that primary care providers and other healthcare workers be included in those who are needed to fight the prescription drug abuse battle. Healthcare facilities all over the country have begun doing their own drug abuse screenings and establishing new policies that are intended to eliminate or significantly lower the amount of doctor shopping that occurs. However, the healthcare facilities that are taking these measures are doing so on their own, with no government regulation, and they are certainly not mandated to take these sorts of steps. The APhA recommended that the DEA step in and regulate these measures and include healthcare facilities that are not taking steps to preventing prescription drug abuse.

The group also recommended that the government support and increase the amount of sites established to safely dispose of prescription drugs. It is well known that many addicts get their start on prescription drugs by finding the pills in a medicine cabinet and begin experimenting. If the government supports and initiates more sites devoted to safe disposal, it is likely that those prescriptions will be kept out of the hands of a potential addict.

These recommendations and more were presented to the Senate by Michal Spira. In addition to hearing Mr. Spira’s talk, the Senate also heard suggestions from the Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy, American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, National Community Pharmacists Association, and National Association of Chan Drug Stores. All of this was in an attempt to lower the amount of dangerous prescription drugs available to children and teens throughout the country.

Survey Indicates Doctors Not Prepared For Prescription Stimulant Diversion

stimulantserAccording to the CDC, over 10 percent of children between the ages of 4 and 17 have been given the label as having Attention Dificit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and almost 70 percent of them are given medication. The prescription stimulants given to these kids can have a large array of side effects, including addiction.

A recent survey of more than 800 doctors who specialize in ADHD turned up some interesting results. For starters, nearly three quarters of the doctors said they received no training on the prevention of prescription drug diversion in medical school, and over half said they didn’t in their residency or fellowhip programs either.

At the same time, these doctors did feel that they saw patients who were trying to obtain prescriptions for stimulants for disingenuous reasons, ranging from wanting a study aid to weight loss and diversion.

The subject of prescription stimulant diversion and abuse continues to come up as the problems associated with the drugs and students seem to escalate. A prime example of this includes the fact that emergency room visits involved stimulants like these quadrupled in just six years, going from more than 5,500 in 2005 to well over 22,000 by 2011.

A recent story in the New York Times quoted Duke University psychologist and professor emeritus Dr. Keith Connors, who said, “The numbers make it look like an epidemic. Well, it’s not. It’s preposterous. This is a concoction to justify the giving out of medication at unprecedented and unjustifiable levels.”

While many people seem to think that giving away medications to people isn’t as bad as selling it to them, laws say otherwise. “In the eyes of the law, there is no difference between someone giving away a pill or selling one; they are both prosecuted as unlawful distribution of a controlled substance,” said Andrew Adesman, MD, senior investigator and chief of developmental behavioral pediatrics at Cohen Children’s Medical Center of New York.

Many prescription drug abuse and recovery experts encourage parents to get second opinions regarding ADHD diagnoses and treatments, as over-prescribing continues to be a problem in America. Of course, if a young person truly does have a medical condition that needs to be address by a medication then it should be, but there also may be other doctors who have different options available. The more people become aware of the powerful side effects and abuse potential of various prescription drugs, the more they can avoid the potential problems associated with them.