A Decline in Overdose Deaths comes from a Decline in Opioid Prescriptions

The decline in opioid prescriptions has been a major force for the drop in drug overdose deaths. This is also the first time that the number of fatalities has dropped since 1990. 

The amount of drug overdose deaths in the United States fell in 2018 by 5.1 percent from 2017. This information comes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDCs) release of the preliminary data in July. The percent might seem small, but the difference in numbers is almost 4000 people. 

Alex Azar, the Secretary for the Department of Health and Human Services, said the following about the results:

“America’s united efforts to curb opioid use disorder and addiction are working … Lives are being saved, and we’re beginning to win the fight against this crisis.”

He also pointed out that the number of patients that are receiving medication-assisted treatments has increased, distribution of overdose-reversing drugs is up, and nationwide opioid prescriptions are down. 

Another thing that has kept patients from overdosing is the lowering of pills per patient, which went from 26 to 18. Patients have reported taking fewer pills, which dropped from 12 to 9. While researchers say the study offers an essential reason for optimism, it shows how difficult it is to change prescribing habits. In May of 2018, at the study’s conclusion, the average number of pills prescribed passed the most up-to-date recommendations for all nine procedures.

However, Chad Brummett, M.D., co-director of Michigan OPEN believes there is more room to grow, stating “There is a misconception that this is all fixed.”

Brummett believes there are still frequent medical professionals who are overprescribing. The possibility of persistent opioid use rises with the number of pills and the length of time opioids are taken during recuperation from surgery. 

When doctors write prescriptions with a generous number of pills, there is a chance that patients do not take them all. Then that could lead to the unused pills to make their way from medicine cabinets, to streets or into the hands of other family members. So the with the fewer opioids being given out increases the chance of lower death numbers by overdose. 

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