In July, the CDC released a report highlighting the difference in painkiller prescriptions per person by state, and Louisiana didn’t fare well. According to the report, Louisiana is one of the 13 states with the highest number of painkiller prescriptions (96 to 143 prescriptions per 100 people); much higher than states like California and Colorado (52 to 71 prescriptions per person 100 people). Health conditions that cause pain do not vary much between states, so these results aren’t easy to explain. The report indicates several potential reasons for the disparity in number of prescriptions, including disagreement among providers on when and how much medication to prescribe, prescription painkiller abuse by patients, and overprescribing of pain medications by providers concerned with profit.
These results and suggestions deserve serious consideration from doctors and patients in Louisiana, as the CDC has found that high numbers of prescriptions written is a key driver of prescription painkiller overdoses. Currently, 46 people in the United States die each day from painkiller overdose.
The physicians at Louisiana Pain Specialists take these statistics seriously, and consider their patients’ safety the top priority. It is very important to them that the patients to whom they prescribe painkiller medications are using them safely and correctly, and they have established many safeguards to ensure this, including:
- Utilizing Louisiana’s prescription drug monitoring program to identify patients who may be receiving prescription drugs from other providers
- Requiring every patient who is prescribed opioid medication to sign a prescription contract, in which they agree to use medications as prescribed and avoid filling opioid prescriptions with other providers
- Carrying out random urine drug screening for patients who are prescribed opioid medication to ensure it is being taken properly and safely
- Working with a Doctor of Clinical and Health Psychology who completes opioid compliance screenings for patients who have violated their contract and advises the physicians based on his findings
- Certifying prescription practices through the National Association Against Prescription Drug Abuse (NAAPDA)
- Providing alternative treatment options (such as procedures and physical therapy) and reducing opioid medications whenever possible
Patients also play a fundamental role in ensuring their own safety when taking painkiller medications. Patients should not take painkillers more often or at a higher dosage than they are prescribed, or share medication with others. Ideally, medications should be disposed of when treatment is complete, by suitable means, such as recommended by the FDA: www.fda.gov/understanding-over-the-countermedicines.
For help with substance abuse, including abuse of prescription painkillers, call 1-800-662-HELP.
For help with chronic pain call Louisiana Pain Specialists.