Increasing Number of Addictions to Prescription Painkillers Such as Oxycontin and Vicodin Cause Federal Agencies to Step In

Millions of Americans receive prescriptions for narcotic painkillers every day, and many could become addicted, overdose or even die from their use. Recent steps from federal agencies, the medical sector and states are aimed at curbing the epidemic of prescription painkiller addictions and their expensive and life-threatening consequences.

A special report from highlights these steps to stop the over-accessibility of prescription painkillers, including requirements in Washington State that doctors will have to seek advice and input from a specialist in pain management before going beyond a designated dosage level of a narcotic pain medication. Doctors will also be required to attend more trainings on how to administer prescription pain medications like Oxycontin and Vicodin.

Actions in Washington and from other sources, including the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, could lead to a shift in thought about prescribing narcotic painkillers, which are known to be highly addictive. The actions are aimed at physicians working with non-cancer patients, such as those recovering from surgeries or long-term physical injury. Part of the shift could also ask doctors to carefully track and analyze a patient’s medical records and note any changes in functionality, aside from just treating them for pain.

The U.S. uses at least 80 percent of narcotic painkillers prescribed across the globe, but some experts are concerned the initiatives could hamper patients, especially older adults, from receiving much-needed relief from chronic pain.

The Food and Drug Administration is also looking into changes toward opioid painkillers, aimed at requiring pharmaceutical manufacturers to be involved with teaching physicians more about dosage for different patients and how to effectively monitor prescriptions. A formal FDA strategy is expected to be released in the next twelve months.

Other actions proposed in the battle against prescription painkiller abuse and addiction include statewide pharmacy database tools to track and monitor patients who move from one location to the next in search of prescriptions for pain medications, but more work is called for to streamline the databases and increase their effectiveness.

Doctors, policy makers and experts agree a change is needed in the way pain treatment is addressed, and that the change will involve many facets, including moral and professional factors.