It’s no surprise to learn from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that opioid overdose deaths have increased so much that they now exceed overdose deaths of heroin and cocaine combined. Death certificates from 28 states were analyzed and a report was published in this week’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report that explains how the data was analyzed.
The report tells us that the number of opioid overdose deaths has nearly caught up to the number of motor vehicle deaths (the number one cause of injury death in America) in the United States.
Heroin abuse is also on the increase. Most of those who abuse heroin have used opioids at some point in their past prior to their heroin use. Heroin is an opioid and they both produce similar effects, which explains why they are both abused by opioid addicts. Heroin is becoming much more readily available and is cheaper than pain pills, so many users turn to heroin because of this.
Although many people are well aware of this epidemic in our country, doctors continue to prescribe them to those who don’t need them. According to the CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H.,
“Reducing inappropriate opioid prescribing remains a crucial public health strategy to address both prescription opioid and heroin overdoses.”
Knowing this, why are doctors continuing to overprescribe opioids?
One major reason is that they are not being held accountable for their actions. The responsibility placed on health-care providers is to only prescribe opioids for carefully screened and monitored patients when all other pain treatments have been exhausted. This is not what is going on, however.
The CDC report referred to above states that the increase in heroin deaths from 2010-2012 is directly related to the increase in the opioid death rate. It also states that not only do we need to stop the overprescribing opioids, we need to help those who are addicted before it is too late.
Doctors must examine patients more closely to determine whether there has been addictive behavior in the patient’s history. They also must monitor patients closely rather than quickly prescribing opioids as a band aid to cover up the real source of a patient’s pain. People are dying in increasing numbers needlessly because of this irresponsible behavior.
States are responsible for regulating health care practices like these, and they must monitor and remedy the overprescribing frenzy that has overcome us as a nation. They have tools readily available to them that can help them identify health care facilities that are illegally prescribing opioids.
Medicaid can use economic measures to take action and hold providers accountable. State professional licensing boards can take action against doctors who are misusing their licenses. Law enforcement agencies can take action against illegal activities. Policies can be put into place to prohibit “pill mills”.
All of these interventions are available, yet people are still needlessly losing their lives. Van Wey Law fights for clients who have lost their lives because of irresponsible doctors who are prescribing opioids when they are not needed. If you have lost a loved one from an opioid overdose because a health care facility or doctor irresponsibly prescribed the medication, you can receive compensation for your pain and suffering. More importantly, you can help to bring this reckless behavior to a halt and save lives. Call Kay Van Wey today for a free consultation.