Approaches to Minimize Risk of Opioid Abuse and Addiction

Due to the increasing number of prescription drug abuse and addiction, several approaches are being considered and supported by experts and policymakers. These are recommended by various stakeholders to reduce the incidence of prescription opioid abuse.

Educating Doctors And Patients

Since most of the opioid drug addiction starts with prescription medications, a comprehensive approach to reducing the risk includes educating doctors on the safe prescription of opioids. A process to inform doctors about a cautious use of pain medicine is helping doctors reduce the risk of opioid abuse by their patients while allowing the doctor to adequately treat their patients suffering from pain. It is also important that the physician informs and educates their patient about the risks and benefits of opioids.

Programs to Monitor Prescriptions

Prescription monitoring programs are systems put in place to collect data to know the number of physicians who prescribe opioids for each patient and the number of pharmacies where these drugs are dispensed. These monitoring programs are administered by the government. The data collected includes information on the doctor, pharmacy, name of the medication, concentration, dose, and amount of medicine dispensed.

Essentially, there prescription monitoring program reports are useful to identify and reduce the over-prescription of opioids as well as the “doctor-shoppers” and “pharmacy-shoppers. Once the drug user reaches a pre-determined limit for purchase of that medication, their name can be notified to all the doctors who recommended it to that person. This approach is meant to limit the number of pharmacies used by the patient to one, notifying the person of the knowledge of their suspicious activity, and if needed, alerting law enforcement for investigation.

Reducing Inappropriate Prescriptions and Errors

An important way to minimize the inappropriate prescription of opioids and medical errors involves systems that can identify mismatches between diagnoses and medication/dose. The reason behind these measures is not to punish but to educate medical professionals who made honest errors in safe opioid prescribing practices and ultimately help them to avoid malpractice lawsuits.

Photo Identification at the Pharmacy

In some places, regulations require pharmacists to check photo identification at the time of picking up any opioid prescriptions at the pharmacy. This approach is being put in place because there is an increase in the number of drug abuse cases as a result of identity theft. This type of criminal activity can be reduced by mandating that the patient’s identification be checked before accepting a claim for prescription opioid medication.

Referral to Pain Specialists

This approach is being tested because many of the opioid addictions start out as a treatment for severe pain. Encouraging referrals to multidisciplinary pain management programs and referral resources for addiction specialists is a good way to manage the pain without or minimal use of the addictive opioids.

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