Prescriptions Aren’t the Problem
Doctors overprescribing opioids did not cause our drug crisis. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s data, nearly half of all overdoses don’t involve prescribed opioids at all. Among the remaining drug-related deaths in 2017, half involved illicit fentanyl and heroin. Only about 18,000 deaths involved a prescription opioid — most not prescribed to the person — and most of those involved multiple illegal drugs and alcohol.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse says most addicts begin to abuse drugs in their teens or early 20s. Contrast that with pain patients on opioid therapy, the majority of which are over age 55. Seniors are prescribed opioids three times more often than youths under age 18, yet seniors have the lowest overdose rates of any age group. Youths overdose six times more often. Prescriptions aren’t the problem.
Restricting pain medication to pain patients won’t stem the tide of illicit fentanyl and heroin overdose deaths. Forcing pain patients off the only medications that work, providing no alternatives, is driving those same patients to street drugs and, increasingly, to suicide. Lawmakers must direct their attention to the real problem — illicit street drugs — and stop persecuting pain patients, the most vulnerable among us.