Opioid addictions are on the rise in America, and researchers may have found a reason why.
From 2006 to 2015, nearly one-third of opioid prescriptions went to patients who weren't even diagnosed with pain, per a study published Tuesday in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine. Researchers broke down nearly 32,000 cases where opioids were prescribed and found they often went to patients with hypertension, high cholesterol, and even "opioid dependence."
America's opioid epidemic has skyrocketed over the past 20 years, with deaths from prescription and especially synthetic opioids still rising as of 2016. About 115 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That includes deaths from misused prescriptions. The CDC has encouraged doctors to dole out lower-grade painkillers to combat addiction.
After breaking down a survey of physician visits, the study found that 71 percent of opioid prescriptions went to patients with cancer- or non-cancer-related pain. But doctors didn't give a good reason for the other 28.5 percent of prescriptions, the researchers found. It was especially common for doctors to keep giving opioids to patients already on them, even if the recipients didn't report ongoing pain.
The study's researchers suggest doctors should better document why they're prescribing opioids. This way, they can more accurately determine which health issues warrant the strong painkillers — and be held accountable if they prescribe them to patients who don't need them. Kathryn Krawczyk