Strict government oversite of opioid medications force physicians to balance the needs of their patients with demands from the government for better control of opioid medications. Fifty years ago cancer patients were denied opioids for their pain because of possible addiction.
Srinivasa Raja, MD, professor of anesthesiology, Johns Hopkins University Medical School, reports that less than 3% of patients with no history of drug abuse will show signs of possible drug abuse when prescribed opioids for chronic pain.
Raja argues that cognitive-behavioral and physical therapies are shown to be effective, but are only part of the solution. In order to address the problem of prescription drug abuse there needs to be a collaboration among the care givers, law enforcement and regulatory agencies, and the pharmaceutical industry. Raja suggest that:
- Law enforcement and regulatory agencies need to develop standardized state-to-state regulatory control of opioids; including a crackdown on illegal Internet pharmacies and prescription thefts and forgeries.
- Pharmaceutical manufacturers need to give priority to developing less addicting pain medication.
- Physicians need to communicate to their patients the benefits and risks of opioids and to screen patients for drug-seeking behavior along with other warning signs of potential abuse.
Raja also suggest patients need to be closely monitored to determine when doses can be lowered.