As America wakes up to the growing issue with opioid addiction taking thousands of lives each year, it seems change is finally taking place at the source – the number of opioids being prescribed has fallen in the last two years for the first time in as many decades.
According to information gathered by the New York Times, in 2016, the number of opioid prescriptions given out in the year fell for the first time since their rise to popularity two decades ago. Since then, the number has continued to fall thanks to continued awareness on the part of the public, healthcare providers, and politicians.
The fall is in direct response to an all-time peak of prescription in 2010, when pharmaceutical companies were handing out their addictive substances left and right with no public response.
Now, the number of high-dose and dangerously-dosed opioids has dropped by a shocking 41 percent since 2010.
We can continue to see aggressive self-regulation from the pharmaceutical industry as long as national attention, legal cases, and FDA scrutiny continues to grow.
On a practical level, the CDC issued new guidelines on the prescription of opioids in treating pain in 2016. Meanwhile, new insurer limits on how many pills an individual doctor can subscribe helped to cut down on pill mill doctors who use their prescription pad to make an extra buck.
In recent months, lawsuits have been made against pharmaceutical companies by individuals and organizations who feel the drugs were deceptively marketed and full warning was not given to consumers over the addictive nature of the their product.
For the first time last week, the FDA recalled an opioid solely on the basis of its addictive nature. Until now, the FDA had never evaluated an opioid on that basis, instead choosing to approve or disapprove a drug based on how it was used properly, not on its potential for misuse.
Even mainstream politics have gotten in on the anti-opioid trend, calling for focus on a new drug war, this time in doctor’s offices in vulnerable rural communities.
While big Pharma was able to spread its addicting substances to each rural American community over the last several years without notice, it is clear now that the public is paying close attention.
While the dropping numbers are encouraging, there are still doctors in the U.S. who are driving the continued market of addiction.
From the New York Times:
“An enormous amount of opioid volume is driven by a very small number of prescribers,” said Dr. Caleb Alexander, co-director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Drug Safety and Effectiveness. “They need to be intervened upon, targeted with educational outreach and, if necessary, professional or regulatory sanction. My sense is that’s not yet happening enough.”