A recent study published in the BMJ (British Medical Journal) suggests that the key to curbing rates of addiction causes by prescribed painkiller medications may be to provide fewer refills, higher dosages of the painkiller.
The philosophy that underlies the recommendation that individuals be given a higher dosage and fewer refills suggests that by ensuring the individual experiences less pain early on, they can overcome the need to continue taking the painkillers sooner. According to the study, ensuring the individual did not need to be on the medication for too long would decrease the likelihood that they begin to engage in substance abuse or become entangled in addiction.
The findings of the study revealed that when a patient was prescribed an opioid painkiller medication, the likelihood that they would engage in abuse of that substance increased by 20% for each additional week of taking the medication. Furthermore, each and every time an opioid painkiller medication prescription was filled, the likelihood that the individual would engage in abuse increased by 40%. According to the findings of the study, by limiting the number of weeks a person is taking an opioid painkiller and decreasing the number of times that prescription is refilled, the chance that a person will engage in abuse of the substance decreases.
The study took data from insurance provider Aetna, examining information pertaining to millions of Americans who had pharmacy and health insurance through the insurer. Every patient considered by the BMJ study had had surgery at some point between the years of 2008 and 2016. More than half (56%) of those individuals whose data was examined had filled a prescription for an opioid painkiller medication after their surgical procedure. The study did not differentiate between which opioid medication was filled by the individual.
While conducting the study, it was observed that the number of individuals who were described as having become dependent on the opioid painkillers increased dramatically. The researchers who conducted the study found that 183 individuals per every 100,000 people were abusing or overdosing on the opioid medications in 2009. However, by the end of the study, in 2016, the researchers had found 269 instances of abuse or overdose per every 100,000 people. The researchers who conducted the study made note of the fact that over the course of the period surveyed, doctors began to prescribe lower doses of opioids, along with more refills.
The researchers behind the study hope the data gathered will help medical professionals adapt their prescription practices to help reduce the rates of abuse and overdose causes by opioids. As the opioid crisis continues to take a dire toll in our country, more people than ever need the benefit of a professional addiction recovery program.