The opiate epidemic that plagues our nation stems from the over-prescribing of opiate-based pain relievers, such as Oxycodone and Vicadin and an even larger increase in the dosages given without accompanying safeguards and education. In 2014, more than 200 million prescriptions for opiate-based painkillers were written. Additionally, research demonstrates that people who abuse or are dependent on prescription opiate painkillers are 40 times more likely to become addicted to heroin, which is also opiate-based.
Even with the epidemic of opiate addiction to both prescription painkillers and to heroin, their illegal street cousin, taking nearly 30,000 lives annually, prescribing practices have yet to fundamentally change. A report on the opiate epidemic from John Hopkins University School of Public Health strongly recommends tightening up prescribing practices: “Doctors often prescribe pain medications in quantities and for conditions that are excessive, and in many cases, beyond the evidence base.” According to national surveys, 85 percent of doctors themselves say that opiate based pain medications are over-prescribed. And, former US Surgeon General Vivek Murphy, in urging the medical profession to do more to combat the opiate epidemic, called doctors, nurses and other healthcare providers, “the first line of defense in the battle against addiction.”
A recent national survey done by the Hazeldon Betty Ford Foundation confirms what too many patients and parents have learned the hard way,: currently, six-in-ten doctors prescribe opioid painkillers without informing patients of their addictive qualities. This is because with the exception of New Jersey and Rhode Island these conversations are not required and most doctors and other health professionals receive little or no training in how to appropriately prescribe and dispense the medicine to minimize the possibility of addiction or use by family and friends.