Last week, an addiction treatment bill was passed by Congress for the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act. It boosted funding, but doctors in some states will not be required to check a database to flag patients who might be abusing the system, or “doctor shopping.” As has been widely reported on in the news in the past few months, opioid and other prescription drug abuse is a significant problem in the U.S., and one that must be addressed. The problem begins with the prescribers, and this bill could have been a great leap forward to curbing the issue.
The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act
An older version of the act gives grants to states to run programs that create a collective database of people who are on prescription drugs, so that a patient may pop up in a physician’s computer as someone who may be getting the same script from multiple doctors, or that may be prescribed something that would dangerously interact with another drug that is being prescribed.
When the bill was passed to give more money to this effort, physicians lobbied against, saying that the process was a burden and that the program often didn’t give accurate information. As a result, the final bill will provide more money to the grant but there will be no requirement for doctors to check the databases, unless their particular state requires it.
The Tragic Opioid Addiction in America
In 2014, more than 18,000 people in the United States died from opioid overdoses, and a large chunk of them were prescription opiates. Drug addiction of this kind often happens innocently enough. A patient may go in to their doctor for routine surgery, and get a prescription for a painkiller, like Vicodin. They take the pills to reduce their pain but find themselves taking the rest of the bottle even once the pain has subsided, just because they like the feeling. Before they know it, the bottle is done and they need to seek more, so they may go to another doctor to complain about pain.
As time goes on this patient will need more and more Vicodin to get the same effect of the drug, so they may be visiting three different doctors in different towns to get the same prescription. At this point, the person is ingesting way more of the drug than they should be, and is in danger of an overdose from the Vicodin, especially if they mix it with other pills or alcohol.
An Addiction Treatment Bill That Could Have Saved Lives
Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMPs), are designed to prevent a situation like the one described from happening. It would make obtaining opioids much more difficult for the patient, and potentially curbing the addiction before it escalates to the point of no return.
For some reason, many doctors can’t seem to recognize the significance of the prescription drug epidemic in our nation. A big part of the solution lies in their hands, and the more awareness we can bring to the epidemic, the better. Hopefully one day soon we will all be working together to bring an end to the senseless addiction and overdose.