Accepting the mistake of not regulating opioid prescriptions more during the 2000s, Scott Gottlieb, M.D., the Commissioner of Food and Drug Administration (FDA), has said he doesn’t want to repeat it now in his third stint at the agency and the first as its chief since May 2017. Speaking at a special session of the annual meeting of the National Academy of Medicine held recently in Washington D.C., Dr. Gottlieb said that the agency is actively considering ways to restrict the number of opioid prescriptions as well as their duration.
In this endeavor, Dr. Gottlieb also sought the support of healthcare providers to step up efforts. “The type of action we need to take to finally address this crisis is going to be far more dramatic than we would have had to do had we made certain decisions years ago,” added the DEA chief. In the light of the ongoing opioid epidemic and the inability of the FDA to check unscrupulous prescription of opioids in the past, Dr. Gottlieb is insisting on prescribing opioids of shorter durations, increasing supervision of highly addictive immediate-release opioids and enforcing steps to curb opioid abuse.
Expressing concerns over the FDA’s limited authority to regulate opioid prescribing guidelines, Dr. Gottlieb called on clinicians nationwide to assist the FDA in formulating effective guidelines to determine the adequate lengths of various opioid prescriptions for different medical conditions, which could be later incorporated into drug labeling. According to former principal deputy commissioner of the FDA Josh Sharfstein, Dr. Gottlieb’s admission comes at a time when opioid addiction has reached alarming proportions in the U.S. due to inappropriate marketing practices.
While speaking before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce on Wednesday, Dr. Gottlieb also suggested that those addicted to opioids can be prescribed less harmful opioid drugs like methadone and buprenorphine
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), from 2000 to 2015 more than half a million people died from drug overdoses. In fact, 91 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose. With innumerable prescriptions for all kinds of addictive painkillers written by doctors across the country, over 2.5 million Americans use opioids like hydrocodone (Vicodin), oxycodone (Percocet, OxyContin), and hydromorphone (Diludid).
Representing 5 percent of the world’s population, Americans end up consuming a whopping 80 percent of all opioids globally. Although, nowadays most of the news reports portray opioid addiction as a crisis rampant among the young, but studies also suggest that it is progressively afflicting older adults as well. Moreover, hospitals across the U.S. report rising number of opioid-addicted babies born to mother battling opioid use disorder. Additionally, nonmedical use of prescription opioids has pushed many unwavering users toward street drugs, such as heroin and fentanyl, which have similar euphoria-inducing properties. In fact, in the United States, immediately after alcohol and marijuana, opioids have earned the ill-repute of being the most abused class of drugs, followed by their street cousins – heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine.
Medical community has greater role in curbing opioid abuse
Additionally, healthcare professionals, physicians as well as pharmacists play a greater role in curbing misuse of prescription opioids by incorporating additional evidence-based screening mechanisms as a part of any consultation process, besides, educating patients about alternative treatment options to cope with their condition. What really matters is to help people get access to useful information, required to combat addiction, such as nonnarcotic pain management options. Importantly, medical professionals must be ever-vigilant to recognize counterfeit prescriptions, which are the major contributors to growing rates of abuse and overdose.
Some effective ways for long-term patient care are summed up below:
- Developing an individualized multi-disciplinary approach consisting of nonpharmacologic treatments to manage pain
- Exploring the possibilities of alternative methods such as nonopioid medications and physical therapy to cope with painful conditions
- Starting with the minimum possible dose and gradually moving to a higher dose according to the patient’s condition and doctor’s advice.
- Refraining from prescribing opioids if someone is already on any antidepressants or antianxiety drugs
- Choosing diclofenac (Voltaren) and celecoxib (Celebrex), which are non-addictive nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
Kicking the menace of opioid addiction
Managing pain is a national challenge in the U.S. today. Therefore, a nationwide cultural transformation is essential to identify, assess, treat and prescribe opioids judiciously to not only eliminate pain, but also do away with the risk of addiction. Making people aware about the dangers of prescription opioid abuse is a major step toward preventing addiction-related health hazards in the future. It is recommended to let your physician know about your medical history and other medicines or supplements you are taking.
If you or a loved one is struggling to break free from addiction to prescription opioids, contact the Sovereign Health of California, which offers a variety of customized therapies at rehab centers in California. Our licensed clinicians use several approaches for resolving each underlying problem. Programs at our residential treatment centers are tailored as per individual needs in order to offer holistic treatment. For more information, call our 24/7 helpline or chat online with our representatives who are available for your queries.
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