Monitoring Tools to Reduce Spread of Prescription Drug Abuse

Abuse of prescription drugs in the United States has increased at an alarmingly high rate, as demonstrated by many recent studies. A person battling with any kind of pain in the body may end up taking higher doses of the medicine in the long run, only to realize later that he cannot survive without the drug any longer. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that physicians wrote 259 million prescriptions for painkillers in 2012, which if divided uniformly would be enough for every American adult to have a bottle of pills.

Drug overdose and prescription drug abuse claim several lives every year. Ironically, very few people are aware how serious the problem is. Actor Heath Ledger’s death in 2008 due to accidental overdose of drugs heightened concerns about the growing problem of prescription drug abuse or overdose. Since then, his father Kim Ledger has been campaigning to educate people about the dangers of abusing prescription drugs.

Being a patron to a nonprofit foundation and Atlanta Medication Assisted Treatment,Scriptwise, Ledger is involved in supporting groups and organizations that assist in the treatment of drug abuse patients. He also advocates the use of real-time prescription drug monitoring systems to track people who buy prescription pills. “Heath’s accidental death serves as a caution to the hidden dangers of combining prescription medication,” Ledger had then told the New York Times.

Legalizing prescription drug monitoring programs and Atlanta Medication Assisted Treatment

The state-run prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) are electronic databases used to track prescription and distribution of controlled prescription drugs to patients. In 2013, a state law in New York implemented a model called “Internet System for Tracking Over-Prescribing (I-STOP)” that requires physicians and pharmacists to monitor the database and manage their patients’ prescriptions. This system tracks patient names, dates and amounts prescribed, which can help physicians detect a patient’s prescription drug history and identify whether the person is involved in drug abuse.

A recent study by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health conducted in Florida suggests that using monitoring tools may reduce the spread of prescription drug abuse. PDMPs and laws against “pill mills” (a doctor, clinic or pharmacy that prescribes or dispenses powerful narcotics inappropriately or for non-medical reasons) are instrumental in decreasing opioid prescriptions and abuse. The study examined various parameters, including the total opioid volume prescribed per month, the average dosage, average days’ supply per transaction, and the total number of prescriptions.

With the implementation of the tracking system, a moderate decrease in opioid prescription and use was observed, according to the research. The first year of implementation resulted in 1.4 percent decrease in Florida’s opioid prescriptions. The volume of opioids prescribed also dropped to 2.5 percent, along with a 5.6 percent fall in amount per prescription.

Addiction to drugs is a mental disorder and needs proper treatment and care. A number of treatment options are available that counter the effects of the drug on the brain and personality, and can also be used to relieve withdrawal symptoms. However, some patients can be treated with a behavioral approach, wherein they are taught certain strategies to cope with frequent cravings and go without drugs for a considerable period. Health practitioners also need to ensure patients are not exposed to the risk of drug abuse and make informed decisions about prescribing opioids. In fact, these tools also need to be monitored closely to facilitate adequate prescribing of controlled prescription drugs and address the drug abuse epidemic.

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