A new study that will be published July 5th in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine shows that 51 percent of opioid prescriptions written in the United States go to people with mood disorders like depression and anxiety.
This news comes despite studies showing that those diagnosed with such mood disorders are far more likely to abuse opioids. However, they are far outpacing the general population when it comes to opioid prescriptions. The study found that only 5 percent of the US population uses prescription opioids, but if you have been diagnosed with a mood disorder, you are almost 4 times as likely to take the drug.
One of the authors of the study, Dr. Brian Sites, said that patients with mood disorders may have a different perception of pain, possibly accounting for some of the discrepancy. Sites said in an interview cited by The Washington Post that pain that, “you may report as a two out of 10, someone with mental health disorders — depression, anxiety — may report as a 10 out of 10.”
Physicians may be more likely to write a prescription for an opioid if the patient has a preexisting condition, like a mood disorder. Opioids have been shown to offer some short-term relief from depression, making the drug seem much more effective to those with a mental health diagnosis.
Sites ultimately believes that the explosion in opioid prescriptions comes from the fact that it is often too difficult for a single physician to refer out all of the necessary care for treating someone with chronic pain. Proper care for those with chronic pain could include physical therapy, behavioral therapy, and even alternative measures like acupuncture and acupressure. Dr. Sites told Stat:
“We don’t have the ability to refer and recommend those things easily. So the easiest thing right now is to prescribe a pill.”
The study comes as the opioid epidemic in this country has grown out of control. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that 91 overdose deaths occur each day, but that number does not account for non-overdose deaths, where opioids may have played a role.
Fortunately, primary care physicians that over-prescribed dangerous opioids are finally being held responsible. On Friday, an Oklahoma physician was arrested and charged with second-degree homicide. KFOR reports that from January 2010 to October 2014, Dr. Regan Nichols prescribed over three million doses of dangerous drugs. Ten of Dr. Nichols’ patients died of overdoses over that time frame. Five of those patients received a total of more than 1,800 opioid pills in the month leading up to their death.
However, arrests like that have done little to slow the rate of prescriptions or deaths. Between 1999 and 2015, opioid prescriptions more than quadrupled, with overdose deaths keeping pace at virtually the same rate.
The outbreak has reached such drastic levels that even librarians are being enlisted to help treat overdoses. CNN reports that at least three major cities, Philadelphia, Denver, and San Francisco have trained library workers in the administration of naloxone, or Narcan, which can treat overdoses.
While the epidemic grows and municipalities are increasingly having to foot the bill for overdoses, there is a fight to hold pharmaceutical companies accountable. Ring of Fire’s Mike Papantonio is leading a group of lawyers aiming to get Big Pharma to pay for their misdeeds. On Ring of Fire Radio, Papantonio said that pharmaceutical companies, like Purdue, knew their drugs would lead to an epidemic, yet did nothing to prevent it:
“When you start digging into the issues it becomes clear the drug company executives knew that this was gonna happen. There’s no question. The documents show it. They were concerned about it. But they did nothing because they knew that this was a get rich quick scheme. There’s a direct correlation between the increase in opioid prescription and the increase of overdose deaths in the United States.”
You can watch the entire segment with Pap and Sam Seder here:
For more information on the fight against the spread of opioids, visit: www.levinlaw.com/government-opioid-lawsuit