Despite a nationwide increase in opioid prescriptions, doctors in Wisconsin have been prescribing fewer opioids leading to a decline in prescriptions since November 2015.
According to a Wisconsin’s Controlled Substance Board report, prescriptions in Wisconsin have declined 10 percent since last year. National opioid prescription rates, on the other hand, have quadrupled between 1999 and 2014. Lori Cross Schotten, Wisconsin United We CAN spokesperson, said Wisconsin’s declining trend is a result of greater awareness among doctors of the risks of opioid addiction.
All doctors in Wisconsin are required to use the Prescription Drug Monitoring Database to track patient prescription histories. According to the Controlled Substance Board report, 37 percent of physicians surveyed use the PDMD while 28 percent of pharmacists surveyed use it. But the report says only 14 percent of those surveyed used PDMD in July, which reflects inconsistent use of the platform.
Cross Schotten said educating doctors has played a key role helping them understand opioid addiction and how to use PDMD to prevent over-prescription.
Programs like the recently launched Recovery Coach program, which places recovery coaches where overdose patients are treated, could also push doctors to use PDMD more consistently. Too often the risks are not presented to the patient or patients insist on pain medication without understanding the science behind how these medications impact the brain, she said.
“Continued education for both doctors and patients on the risks of opiods is key to helping people make the best choice for pain control,” Cross Schotten said.
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But Cross Schotten said it is also important to consider patients who were already addicted to prescription opioids. Some of these patients were simply cut off from their prescription supply and have turned to heroin instead, she said.
In order to prevent patients from turning to heroin, insurance companies should expand coverage of non-traditional pain relief like essential oils and acupressure, Cross Schotten said. Providing these alternatives can prevent addiction to other substances. These alternatives can also be used instead of opioids in the first place.
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Centers for Disease Control also provides guidelines on how patients can be weaned off opioid medications so as to minimize the risks of switching to illegal purchases of either the same pills or heroin, Cross Schotten said.
“While I believe it is a positive thing that we are being cautious on writing new prescriptions, we also need to be cautious about how we help those already taking these prescriptions wean off of them,” Cross Schotten said.