Discuss the importance of stricter prescription guidelines and its potential effect on combatting opioid abuse in the 21st century.

Discuss the importance of stricter prescription guidelines and its potential effect on combatting opioid abuse in the 21st century.

Opioids are a type of drug that covers heroin and prescriptions that help to alleviate pain for instance fentanyl (an artificial pain helper), oxycodone (Oxycontin), morphine, codeine, and hydrocodone (Vicodin), that are extracted from opium, a milky liquid of the opium poppy. Even though efficient in caring for pain, opioid pain relievers (OPRs) are very obsessive (Ackerman et al., 2019). New research concerning avoidable deaths states that the possibility of a loss of life as a result of opioid overdose (a 1 out of 96 likelihood) surpassed end of life caused by road carnage (a 1 in 103 likelihood). This research paper will discuss the importance of stricter prescription guidelines and its potential effect on combatting opioid abuse in the 21st century. 

Discuss the importance of stricter prescription guidelines

             Stricter prescription guidelines help to reduce abuse of opioids such as pethidine and morphine by ensuring that the pharmacists only dispense them when a patient has a doctor’s prescription. Opioids are mostly prescribed to be used in relieving patients from pain (Califf et al., 2016). Abusing prescription drugs is a threat to our young generation such as children and adolescents. Sometimes abusing drugs becomes fatal when one overdoses, leading to premature death.

Abusing prescription drugs has contributed to a national drug epidemic, where a majority of drug users abuse opioids obtained as a prescription drug. It also puts a heavy toll on the patients, society, and healthcare workers. People with mental health disorders and chronic pain are more likely to be prescribed medication that contains opioids (Kaye, 2017). Abusing prescription opioids is found in almost all socio-economic levels. People abuse it to reward themselves or others, addiction, self-medication, and diversion for profits.

It is important to impose stricter guidelines in prescribing opioids since its abuse has caused an increase in crime rates, assault, violence, public drug use, drug trafficking, domestic violence and has put children whose parents abuse opioids at risk. Stakeholders can partner with police departments to educate youth on the hazards of abusing prescription drugs. Police should work with the medical community to effectively use Prescription Monitoring Programs (PMPs) (International Association of Chiefs of Police, 2016).

Deaths caused by overdosing on opioids has at times surpassed deaths caused by overdosing on heroin.  Fatal doses occur when a doctor prescribes a higher “milligram-per-person use”. Stricter prescription guidelines also guide pharmacists to check that the prescription is a new one and not a past one that was already dispensed. If a patient wants a refill, they should be asked to return to their previous doctor for a new prescription. These drugs are referred to as prescription-only medicines (POMs) (University of Houston, 2018). These guidelines enable opioids to be securely stored under lock and key in the pharmacy, and each time they are dispensed, the stock cards are balanced to ensure that their movement is monitored to curb abuse by healthcare workers.

            Prescriptions must be done specifically by a consultant, not any doctor. They should be given for a month and if more is still needed, the patient can return to the doctor for another monthly dose. Stricter prescription measures will stop opioids from being readily available to unauthorised users. Most people who obtain these drugs access them from the internet, dealers, family, or friends. Most youths misuse opioid prescription drugs because they believe that they are “safe” since they are prescribed by doctors and sold by pharmacies. The medical community, law enforcement, parents, and educators have a role to play in correcting this misconception (International Association of Chiefs of Police, 2016). 

Strict prescription guidelines advise the doctor to stop opioid therapy when the benefits do not outweigh the risks of continuing with the treatment. Healthcare workers should only proceed with the treatment only if there is a significant recovery in function and pain that counterbalances risks to the safety of the patient (CDC, 2016). This will assist in taming the rapid rise in prescription drug abuse by curbing opioid addiction.

Drug abuse causes people to commit crimes to fuel their addictions (Alexander et al., 2017). This prevents such people from engaging in nation building, weakens our societies, rips families apart and destroys lives. Offenders who are taken to jail may get even worse influence. Jails aren’t the best places for people going through recovery from drug addiction or its withdrawal process (International Association of Chiefs of Police, 2016). 

Its potential effect on combatting opioid abuse in the 21st century.

The Centre for Disease Control (CDC) issued some guidelines to guarantee that both medical workers and their patients choose secure and more efficient medical care to enhance the recovery process for patients through outcomes such as less pain, better body functioning, and lower the number of people who struggle with extreme effects caused by opioids (University of Houston, 2018).

Stricter guidelines will limit opioid supply through controlling the kinds of brands authorised for treatment (for example abuse-deterrent opioids), and control requirements for legitimately acquiring acceptable drugs. It will also assist the health ministry to unearth cases of both doctor-shopping (shifting from one doctor to another to acquire numerous prescriptions of a drug) and overprescribing (Alexander et al., 2017).

Ackerman et al., (2019) state that when the healthcare workers learn how to properly use the electronic health systems, they will be able to communicate better with the providers and dispensers of those electronic systems and produce more precise results after scrutinizing the legislative efforts.

According to Ackerman et al. (2019), newly enacted laws on prescribing and adopting of technologies such as MAPS and Start Talking Consent forms will ensure that healthcare workers find patients who are at a higher risk with more ease and educate them on the threat, they are exposing themselves to by misusing opioids.

Reduced overdependence and overdose can be attained by giving the least number of immediate-release opioid doses that won’t reduce effectiveness. Practices such as prescribing high doses, simultaneously using benzodiazepine and opioid prescriptions, and long-acting opioids for intense pain contribute to overdependence on opioids, and should thus be discouraged (CDC, 2016). In most cases, less than three days should be enough, and more rarely should opioids be used for more than seven days.       

If a patient is suffering from chronic pain, non-opioid therapy (e.g. prescription or over the counter acetaminophen, ibuprofen and aspirin) should be used (Ackerman et al., 2019). The CDC defines chronic pain as that which persists for more than three months or beyond the normal time body tissues take to heal). A recent study revealed that more than half of all adolescents complaining of headaches were given opioid prescriptions. Some of these adolescents misused these medications to get high or boost the effects of alcohol and similar drugs. It is common for such people to get addicted to heroin. Observational research and stricter prescription guidelines will ensure that this specific population gets alternative medication that does not contain opioid, to avoid its abuse. 

Doctors should prescribe immediate-release opioids instead of long-acting ones. Long-term use of opioid therapy should be carefully considered in the framework of all pain management methods (inclusive of nonopioid pain medicines and nonpharmacologic medical care). Nonopioid therapy can be used for the long-term (a period of more than one year), outcomes connected to pain, patient comorbidities, and patients’ statistics (such as demography). Using long-term opioid therapy to treat chronic pain outside of the end of life context can cause serious harm to a patient who is dose-dependent (Califf et al., 2016). Whenever possible, patients should be prevented from long term opioid medication because of their extreme effects. The higher the dose and duration of opioid used on a patient during medication, the higher the likelihood that the patient will become dependent on the drug or abuse it all together.   

        Doctors should also assess risks caused by opioids using strategies such as opioid management policies, patient literacy, conducting urine drug tests, pill counts, monitoring intervals, monitoring instruments, prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMP) data, and other methods that curb opioid abuse to deter its abuse and reduce its misuse, addiction or overdose. Prescription Monitoring Programs are designed to stop opioid overprescribing. Within 1 to 4 weeks of beginning opioid therapy to treat chronic pain, doctors should asses the harms and benefits to the patient. The effects of continued opioid therapy use should be assessed every 3 months or less. Other therapies should be adopted if harms outweigh benefits (CDC, 2016). Doctors need to scrutinise a patient’s prescription history with the help of prescription drug auditing software.   

Conclusion

This research paper discussed the importance of stricter prescription guidelines and its potential effect on combatting opioid abuse in the 21st century. Opioids are mostly used to help alleviate pain in patients. Abusing opioids has significantly contributed to the national drug epidemic, where people across all socio-economic levels abuse opioids drugs prescription. Access to opioids should be limited to only those with genuine prescriptions. When Prescription Monitoring Programs (PMPs) are fully integrated, they can greatly reduce illegal access to opioids and assist authorities to unravel incidents of overprescribing and doctor-shopping. The 2016 CDC guidelines for prescribing opioids for chronic pain recommend that nonopioid therapy should be used to treat chronic pain. The least possible doses should be used to reduce the harm of dependence. Immediate-release opioids should be prescribed. Opioid side effects should always be considered and a patient’s prescription history should be carefully scrutinised using the various prescription drug monitoring programs. 

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