Doctors' group urges tighter controls on prescription painkillers

Doctors' group urges tighter controls on prescription painkillers
American College of Physicians issues guidelines for preventing these and other drugs from being abused.

(HealthDay)—Abuse of narcotic painkillers and other prescription drugs is a growing problem in the United States, and a leading doctors' group is urging members to exercise tighter control on the medications.

The American College of Physicians (ACP) says its recommended changes will make it tougher for —painkillers such as Oxycontin and Vicodin, as well as drugs used for sleep problems and weight loss—to be abused or diverted for sale on the street.

Prescription drug abuse may now be a prime cause of accidental death in the United States, according to a recent tally of preliminary data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. One 2010 survey, funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, found that 16 million Americans aged 12 and older had used a prescription painkiller, sedative, tranquilizer or stimulant for purposes other than their medical care at least once in the prior year.

One of the ACP's 10 recommendations highlighted the need to educate doctors, patients and the public about the dangers of . The guidelines also suggested that doctors consider the full range of available treatments before prescribing painkillers.

Among the other recommendations:

  • Evidence-based, nonbinding guidelines should be developed to help guide doctors' treatment decisions.
  • A national prescription-drug-monitoring program should be created, so doctors and pharmacists can check similar programs in their own and neighboring states before writing and filling prescriptions for substances with high abuse potential.

Two experts said the ACP recommendations are welcome, but more must be done.

"[The new guidelines] are spot on and can be effective, but in order to have any real impact on prescription drug abuse, the most important strategy they need to recommend would be proper addiction curriculum and education programs for all medical schools," said Janina Kean, president and CEO of High Watch Recovery Center, a drug rehab facility in Kent, Conn.

"There is a fundamental lack of education about addiction medicine and treating patients with substance-use disorders provided in medical school, as well as internships and residency programs," Kean said.

"For example, psychiatrists—the very person whose specialty is behavioral health—in many instances do not appropriately treat patients who have co-occurring addiction disorder," Kean said. "At High Watch, in case after case we have been confronted with patients who have achieved sobriety, then see a psychiatrist for an anxiety disorder and relapse after being prescribed a [drug] that is an addictive controlled substance."

Dr. Stephen Dewey researches addiction and the brain at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research in Manhasset, N.Y. He called the ACP guidelines "excellent and perhaps long overdue," and said they are based on extensive and rigorous science.

"The ACP has acknowledged the roles played by physicians in this growing problem and is now offering suitable, effective and well-conceived strategies to address it," Dewey said. "The human and financial costs associated with prescription cannot be overstated. If fully implemented, [the guidelines] will have a direct and positive impact on the human condition."

The guidelines were published Dec. 9 in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.

More information: The U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse has more about prescription drug abuse.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Recommended for you

FDA launches first app to identify drug shortages

10 hours ago

(HealthDay)—A mobile phone application (app) has been released to identify current drug shortages, resolved shortages, or discontinuations of drug products, according to a press release published by the ...

FDA approves first lower-cost biotech drug (Update)

12 hours ago

Federal health officials have approved the first lower-cost copy of a biotech drug to reach the U.S. market, a long-awaited milestone that could generate billions in savings for insurers, doctors and patients.

A look at the growing use of synthetic drugs

14 hours ago

In recent years, hundreds of new synthetic recreational drugs have emerged – drugs that neither the general public nor the scientific community know very much about. Many of these new synthetic drugs – ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.