A recently-released report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) presents a mixed picture regarding the opioid epidemic in this country. According to the CDC, doctors are writing fewer opioid prescriptions than they did in 2010 and for smaller dosages. However, on average, the prescriptions they are writing are for longer periods.
According to the report, which studied opioid prescriptions between 2006 and 2015, the annual prescription rate fell by 13 percent. High-dose prescriptions dropped substantially — by 41 percent. However, the average prescription length increased from 13 days to 18 days.
The acting director of the CDC summed up the findings of the report this way: “The bottom line is that too many [people] are still getting too much for too long and that is driving our problem with drug overdoses and drug overdose deaths in the country.”
One addiction specialist notes that this longer length of access to opioids actually increases the chances of becoming addicted to them.
The number of opioid prescriptions is three times higher in the U.S. than in European countries. Further, despite the changes in prescription patterns over roughly the past decade, American doctors are still prescribing triple the opioids that they did in 1999.
The CDC issued new guidelines last year to try to reduce the number of opioid prescribed unnecessarily. There’s been a movement to get doctors to prescribe safer drugs and provide nonpharmaceutical solutions for pain relief, such as physical therapy.
The CDC report does not reflect any changes in prescription patterns since the new guidelines were issued. The agency’s acting director says that “we have much more to do. We think we are starting to correct the course. But turning a ship of this size will take time.”
Too often, when a person’s opioid prescriptions runs out and he or she is no longer able to get refills from a doctor, he or she turns to illegal methods of obtaining the drug. This can lead to worsening addiction and potentially-fatal overdoses.
The legal consequences of possessing opioids without a valid prescription can be serious. Florida criminal defense attorneys with experience in this area can work to mitigate the consequences of a prescription drug violation charge, including seeking alternatives to prison such as addiction treatment.