Physicians A Leading Source For Opioid Drug Abuse
March 4, 2014

Sources For Prescription Drugs Often Come From Friends And Family

Brett Smith for - Your Universe Online

A new study from researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has found that most people who abuse prescription painkillers get their fix from friends and family, while those who chronically abuse the addictive opioids most likely get the drugs from their own doctor.

Published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine, the new study emphasizes the need for mitigation efforts that target physicians’ prescribing habits – particularly for individuals at highest danger for overdose.

“Many abusers of opioid pain relievers are going directly to doctors for their drugs,” said CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden. “Health care providers need to screen for abuse risk and prescribe judiciously by checking past records in state prescription drug monitoring programs.  It’s time we stop the source and treat the troubled.”

Previous efforts to reduce prescription drug abuse have focused on the more common, casual abuser. These efforts have included collecting unused medications through special “take-back” events. However, these efforts fail to stop the drugs from reaching the chronic abuser – considered by the CDC to be someone who uses 200 or more days out of the year.

In the study, CDC scientists analyzed information from National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) for the years of 2008 through 2011. They found that chronic users got their legal opioids via their own prescription medications 27 percent of the time, as frequently as they obtained the drugs from friends or family for free. These high-risk users are also four times more inclined than the typical user to get the drugs from a dealer or other unknown person.

Study author Dr. Leonard J. Paulozzi told the Los Angeles Times that the danger with abusing prescription opioids is that "every time you use the drug, it's another opportunity to overdose.”

"At this point, virtually everyone recognizes that this is a serious problem that has been getting much worse," Frieden said. "What we now are figuring out is what's going to work to reverse it."

He added that some doctors may “just not realize that the risks are so high and benefits so limited," and "a very small number of prescribers… are using their medical licenses to sell drugs."

Frieden said authorities can spot these problem prescribers by using prescription drug monitoring programs, or PDMPs.

"There is a coalescing recognition of what's going to be important," he said. "One is clearly going to be PDMPs — and PDMPs that are mandatory, real time and actively monitored so that the folks running them identify problem patients and problem doctors."

While the study focused exclusively on those who said they abuse prescription drugs, Christopher M. Jones, a senior advisor at the Food and Drug Administration, told the Times that people who use the painkillers as directed still aren’t free from danger – citing another recent study that found the stronger the medication the greater the risk of overdose.

Jones said he hoped the study would stir an "appreciation that physicians are involved in both the problem, as well as the solution," and fuel new guidelines "that improve how physicians prescribe."