Dangerous Doses for Prescriptions Dropping
A recent federal analysis found prescriptions for higher, more dangerous doses have dropped the most sharply, by 41 percent since 2010. In 1999 the nation’s problem with opioid addiction was just starting. An analysis by the Federal Center for Disease Control and Prevention also found that the rate for prescriptions in 2015 remained three times as high as in 1999.
Actions such as state crackdowns on pain clinics and prescribing guidelines are thought to have contributed to the declines. States such as Florida and Kentucky adopted policies requiring doctors to check a drug history database before prescribing to patients. The federal government also took steps to tighten prescribing rules for one of the most common painkillers in 2014.
The analysis found the amount prescribed decreased 18 percent from 2010 to 2015. In some counties, opioid prescription rates increased to six times higher. The rates were reported to vary significantly from area to area.
Last year, the CDC issued the first guidelines focused on discouraging prescribing opioids except in cases where they are most needed like cancer and end-of-life care. The deadliest drug overdose epidemic in U.S. history has been fueled by prescription opioids. An estimated 52,000 Americans died of overdoses in 2015, an all-time record.
Heroin and illicit fentanyl are leading to more and more overdose deaths, but the epidemic was triggered by the explosion in prescriptions of powerful painkillers seen for the last 20 years.