91 Percent of Patients Who Overdose on Opioids Later Prescribed More Opioids

In further evidence of a rising opioid epidemic, a new study had found that the vast majority of patients who survive an opioid overdose later receive a prescription for more opioids.

Overdose deaths from opioid drugs such as heroin, methadone and oxycodone have risen over 200 percent since 2000, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) finds. More Americans now die from drug overdoses than car crashes, with patients filling up hospitals and rehab centers from the East Coast to San Diego.

Doctors’ attitudes toward opioids have changed significantly over the past 17 years. Since 1999, the number of opioid drugs prescribed by doctors has quadrupled. And as a recent paper published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine shows, even high-risk patients who have already experienced an overdose are not immune to many doctors’ pill-happy prescription habits.

In a study of nearly 3,000 patients who had previously received treatment for nonfatal opioid overdose, 91 percent continued to receive prescriptions for high-dosage opioids. And for 70 percent of patients, post-overdose opioid prescriptions were written by the same doctor who had prescribed the drugs before.

The study raises serious concerns about the quality of medical care opioid overdose survivors receive. People who are suffering from opioid addiction should be referred to drug rehab centers or halfway houses for treatment, not sent home to San Diego with a prescription for the very same drugs that nearly killed them in the first place.

It is likely that doctors in San Diego and around the nation are fueling their patients’ addictions unintentionally. Out of nearly 100,000 practicing physicians in the United States, only about 1,200 are specially trained in addiction medicine.

Until physicians can catch up with new CDC guidelines limiting opioid prescriptions, people with opioid addictions continue to flood drug rehab centers and related facilities around the country. Rather than prescribing more drugs, persons suffering from opioid abuse require comprehensive addiction treatment in order to prevent another potentially-fatal overdose in the future.

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