In an effort to reduce the painkiller overdoses and deaths, state and federal governments are stepping up their efforts to regulate, or at least better inform, physicians who prescribe the opioids. They aren't targeting just the "pill mills," those corrupt docs who loosely prescribe painkillers for big profits.
No, they are trying to reduce drug abuse or the mishandling of drugs by setting their sights on the ordinary physicians who stand on the front line between pain and prescriptions.
It is a constant, aching problem in the U.S. An estimated 60 million here have some type of chronic, nonmalignant pain. To treat that pain, extended-release, long-acting opioid analgesics are widely prescribed, with an estimated 22.9 million prescriptions dispensed in 2011, according to IMS Health, which provides information services to pharmaceutical firms. At least 320,00 physician prescribers who are registered with the Drug Enforcement Administration wrote at least one prescription for the drugs in 2011.
While most recipients of these prescriptions use opioid analgesics for pain control, some use these powerful drugs for non-medical purposes. In 2009, there were 425,000 emergency department visits involving non-medical use of the drugs, according to the Food and Drug Administration.
In addition, there were 15,597 deaths from opioid pain relievers in 2009, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported – four times more deaths than in 1999.