Statistics show that there has been a decrease in opiate prescriptions written by physicians. The peak year was 2012 when nearly 260 million opiate prescriptions were written. Since then, there has been somewhere between a twelve and eighteen per cent decrease since then according to statistics from Symphony Health Solutions and IMS Health.
The deaths from opiate drugs have not decreased. Over 28,000 deaths were attributed to opiate abuse in 2014 according to the American Society of Addiction Medicine.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) in 2016 issued guidelines for prescribing opiates that included assessing the risk and harm of prescribing opiates, understanding dosage and length of duration, and determining when to use opiates outside of the end of life care. These guidelines contribute to the decline of opiate prescriptions.
Dr. Jeffrey Fudin, a leading pharmacist in the area of pain management and opiate therapy, believes that one public health crisis is simply being replaced by another. That is a decline in opiate prescriptions has led to an increase in heroin addiction. I wholeheartedly agree with Dr. Fudin.
“Heroin use has been on the rise due to unavailability of prescription opioids,” Dr. Fudin noted. “In addition, we are seeing more heroin laced with other drugs such as fentanyl, and injecting such drugs may lead to infections such as hepatitis C, HIV, and endocarditis, all of which are a huge cost to families and society.”
Scott County Indiana had a severe outbreak of HIV in 2015. An epidemic, with 79 reported cases of HIV and all were directly related to intravenous drug use. It was May 15, 2015, that Governor Michael Pence signed a law, allowing the availability of a syringe exchange program (SEP), a short-term emergency order in attempts to thwart the HIV spread.
Pharmacists are becoming an ever increasing responsibility to work in the fight against drug abuse. Pharmacists should make efforts to counsel patients on pain medications, offer alternatives to medication where possible, and monitor for indications of abuse and overdose.