The United States – Opioid addiction has been on a dramatic rise since the beginning of the 21st century; it is estimated that as of now, over four million Americans present a clear addiction to prescription opioids. Prescription painkillers are often classified as opioids, they serve as a much safer-to-obtain substitute to heroin.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have published a series of new guidelines and procedures to be followed by the whole drug and health system in the country. Its aim is to stop the tendency of prescribing opioids as go-to painkillers. A nationwide drug database is to be created so that anyone with an existing opioid prescription cannot have access to an additional prescription by going to another doctor.

Photo credit: NCADD
Opioid addiction has been on a dramatic rise since the beginning of the 21st century. Photo credit: NCADD

The system was suggested by Shatterproof, a nonprofit organization with the objective of reducing and eliminating opiate addiction. There are already drug databases that doctors need to review before assigning prescriptions, but Shatterproof insists that the database has to be implemented nationwide, in order for it to have the desired impact of substantially reducing legal opiate consumption, and subsequently, addiction

Why is this important

There is a clear inclination towards prescribing opioids for treating chronic pain. Doctors often don’t take into account the psychological history of the patient, which may lead to an opioid addiction if the prescription amount is not adequate. The newly published guidelines will impose new procedures and more factors to take into account before prescribing any sort of opioid-based treatment.

The first quarter of 2016 has been teeming with effort on reducing opioid addiction. Among the measures taken, a Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act Senate bill was approved, and it aims to impose a more strict and deep approach into reviewing the levels and responsive measures of prescription drug addiction. A Pain Management Best Practices Interagency Task Force is to be created in order to review and update the procedures implemented by the United States healthcare system to manage pain.

The CDC guidelines state that opioids are not to be prescribed to patients as a first measure. If there is a clear need to prescribe this sort of medication, then the doctor would have to create an entry in the database in order to impose a regulation on the patient’s access to legal opioids. A number of prescribed painkillers is also to be reviewed on the passing bills.

The issue lies in the application of the database, as there is no binding measure that forces every doctor in the United States to access such prescription system. Shatterproof have proposed several ideas to facilitate the imposing of the system, such as allowing assistants to input information if the doctor is not available, or providing access credentials to every doctor.

Source: CDC