Have you ever been injured, perhaps broke an arm or sustained a severe sprain, and were prescribed pain medication? Chances are you have, or at least know someone who has. The truth is that prescribing narcotics as a pain reliever for injuries like that is a relatively new practice.
In the past, narcotics were rarely prescribed, and generally only given to patients recovering from surgical procedures. However, nearly everyone today will know what it feels like to be on an opioid pain killer.
The U.S. accounts for about 5 percent of the total world population, but consumes almost 75 percent of the world’s prescription narcotics. More and more people are getting their hands on more and more prescription drugs. The CDC reported that in 2014, more people died from prescription drug overdose than in any previous year.
Why Are Prescription Drugs So Popular Now?
In the mid-1990s, medical malpractice suits created a perception that physicians were failing to properly treat their patients for pain. Since then, prescribing narcotics as a pain reliever has only become more commonplace.
Hospitals shifted their primary focus from providing the best care to satisfying patients. However, this drive to achieve a 100 percent patient satisfaction rating is at least partially to blame for the rise in over prescription of opioid pain killers.
A survey conducted by the Ohio State Medical Association showed that 98 percent of doctors felt pressured into prescribing narcotics and that 67 percent of those surveyed believe that doctors regularly overprescribe their patients with narcotics.
The pressure to keep pain levels low, and patient satisfaction levels high has driven more doctors to overprescribing medications such as Vicodin and Hydrocodone. These drugs, which have very similar effects on the brain as heroin, can be extremely dangerous if not taken properly.
There are numerous cases of patients dying from accidental overdose due to overprescribing medication as well as lack of education about how to take the drug properly.
How Can We Change This?
Similar to the cultural shift which occurred 20 years ago, we have to change the perception of both patients and doctors today. More education is needed regarding the difference between pain and discomfort.
Hospital’s priorities must also shift from focusing on patient satisfaction to patient care. By eliminating the pressure doctors feel to prescribe (and possibly over-prescribe) narcotics could reverse the swell of accidental overdoses and addiction.