Doctors are Primary Source of Narcotic Painkillers for Chronic Drug Abusers in U.S.

Thursday, March 06, 2014
(photo: Toby Talbot, AP)

It has long been assumed that Americans who abuse prescription drugs manage to do so by getting their pills from relatives and friends. But a new study shows doctors are actually the No. 1 source for painkillers used by chronic abusers.


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) delved into the problem and found in 27% of cases involving chronic abusers (those taking pills 200 days or more a year), physicians were the most common source of painkillers.


Such doctors have been labeled “problem prescribers.” They are professionals “who may just not realize that the risks are so high and benefits so limited,” as well as “a very small number of prescribers — who are using their medical licenses to sell drugs,” Dr. Tom Frieden, CDC’s director, told the Los Angeles Times.


The second most common source of painkillers for abusers was family members and friends, responsible in 26% of cases.


In addition to the CDC study, which was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the Times investigated the problem two years ago and discovered doctor-prescribed drugs caused or contributed to nearly half of the prescription overdose deaths in Southern California in recent years.


This crisis of narcotic painkiller addiction and overdose was declared an epidemic by the CDC in 2011. Nationally, OxyContin and Vicodin have led the way among prescription-drug related overdoses averaging more than 16,000 a year.


“At this point, virtually everyone recognizes that this is a serious problem that has been getting much worse,” Frieden said. “What we now are figuring out is what’s going to work to reverse it.”

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Doctors are Top Source of Prescription Drugs for Chronic Abusers (by Lisa Girion and Scott Glover, Los Angeles Times)

Sources of Prescription Opioid Pain Relievers by Frequency of Past-Year Nonmedical Use United States, 2008-2011 (by Christopher M. Jones, PharmD, MPH; Leonard J. Paulozzi, MD, MPH; and Karin A. Mack, PhD; Journal of the American Medical Association - Internal Medicine) (abstract)

V.A. Doctors Renewed Opiate Painkillers for Patients They Never Saw (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Is VA Causing Veterans to Overdose on Opiates? (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

FDA Panel Advises Limiting Prescription Refills for Addictive Painkillers (by Matt Bewig, AllGov)


Debbie Martin 10 years ago
It sure doesn't take a mental heavyweight to know that most of the drs from yesterday no longer exist. More than a few, I believe, purposely get patients hooked on drugs so they can cash in!! Legal Drug Pushers!! Disgusting!

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