|Basic InformationLatest News|Steroid Shots Offer No Long-Term Relief for Low-Back PainInitial Rx Can Affect Likelihood of Long-Term Opioid UseOpioid Dependence Can Start in Just a Few DaysOpioid Painkillers and Xanax or Valium a Deadly Mix: StudyDiazepam Not Beneficial for Acute Low Back Pain in ERKids' OD Risk Rises When Opioids Left Out at HomeChronic Pain More Likely for Poor, Less Educated: StudySome Docs May Help Fuel Opioid Abuse EpidemicTry Drug-Free Options First for Low Back Pain, New Guidelines SayTwelve Percent of Women Fill Opioid Rx After Vaginal DeliveryLow Back Pain? Relax, Breathe and Try YogaOpioids and Alcohol a Dangerous CocktailTreatment of Hips Beneficial in Patients With Low Back PainCommon Painkillers Don't Ease Back Pain, Study FindsHigh Pain Tolerance Tied to 'Silent' Heart Attack RiskWhat You Need to Know When Prescribed an Opioid PainkillerDiscussing Opioid Risks With Patients Reduces MisuseVitamin D Replacement Improves Chronic Widespread PainCelebrex May Not Pose Bigger Heart Risk Than Similar Drugs: StudyMany Take Opioids Reluctantly for Back Pain: Survey'Fake Pills' May Help Ease Back PainHealth Tip: Need Pain Relief?DEA Puts Quota on Production of Opioid PainkillersRisk of Opioid Addiction Up 37 Percent Among Young U.S. AdultsCould Prescribed NSAID Painkillers Raise Heart Failure Risk?Opioid Epidemic Costs U.S. $78.5 Billion Annually: CDCReview Suggests Safe, Effective Ways to Relieve Pain Without MedsFDA: Opioids Plus Sedatives Pose Fatal OD RiskNon-addictive Painkiller Shows Promise in Animal TrialsNighttime Sleep Disturbance Common in Chronic PainCannabis Provides More Pain Relief for Men Than WomenStudy Finds Links Between Chronic Pain, Depression in CouplesAddiction Risk Low for Seniors Taking Post-Op Opioids: StudyDoctors Urged to Prescribe Lower Doses of Opioids, No RefillsPain Raises Risk of Opioid AddictionCommon Surgeries Raise Risk for Opioid Dependence: StudyDoes Medical Marijuana Reduce Need for Other Meds?Programs to Spot Painkiller Abuse Work, But Are UnderusedTighter Opioid Laws in U.S. Haven't Eased MisuseLong-Acting Opioids May Increase Risk of All-Cause MortalityOpioid Painkillers Raise Deadly Heart Risks for Some: StudyPatients Often Prescribed Extra Painkillers, Many Share ThemNew Synthetic Drug Linked to Dozens of Deaths Across U.S.Opioid Prescriptions Drop for First Time in Two DecadesChronic Pain May Trigger Many Cases of Painkiller Addiction: SurveyPainkiller Addiction Relapse More Likely for SomeObama Administration Steps Up Efforts to Beat Painkiller, Heroin EpidemicHealth Tip: Things That Can Aggravate Arthritis PainQuestions and AnswersLinks
Tighter Opioid Laws in U.S. Haven't Eased Misuse
by By Steven ReinbergHealthDay Reporter
Updated: Jun 22nd 2016
WEDNESDAY, June 22, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- U.S. laws designed to curb abuse of opioid painkillers haven't reduced misuse or overdoses by disabled Medicare beneficiaries, a new study suggests.
Between 2006 and 2012, states enacted 81 laws to control use of powerful opioids such as Oxycontin and Vicodin. But even with these new prescription-drug monitoring programs and other regulations, researchers found that 45 percent of disabled Medicare beneficiaries were still using opioids in 2012.
And 8 percent got their opioids from four or more doctors.
"There is no evidence yet that these laws prevent misuse of prescription opioids," said lead researcher Ellen Meara, a professor at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice in Lebanon, N.H.
"In this vulnerable population of disabled workers, legal remedies to the opioid epidemic are too weak and too slow," she added.
Disabled workers are at risk of opioid abuse, she said, because they "have complex medical and social needs, high rates of poverty, and they are more likely to have diagnoses of mental illness like depression compared with other Americans."
Widespread availability of powerful painkillers has caused an epidemic of addiction, injury and death, said Dr. G. Caleb Alexander, co-director of the John Hopkins Center of Drug Safety and Effectiveness.
"The United States accounts for 5 percent of the world's population, but consumes 80 percent of the opioids -- you know we've got a problem," said Alexander, who wasn't involved in the study.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 78 Americans die every day from an overdose of opioids, including heroin.
Tighter regulations have a role in curbing the epidemic, Alexander said.
The problem with the laws enacted between 2006 and 2012 is that none addressed the "underlying pain and disenfranchisement that has led so many Americans to seek relief of pain with opioids," Meara said.
Eventually, though, Meara believes new and/or tougher legislation will start to turn the epidemic around.
"Over a five-year horizon, I am optimistic that legal remedies may help slow the misuse, abuse and overdose deaths related to prescription opioids," Meara said. "Unfortunately, the epidemic is spreading and changing rapidly, while the legal response is slow and blunt."
Progress has been made since 2012, when the study ended, she noted. For instance, it's now easier to gain access to naloxone, a prescription drug that can reverse opioid overdose. Addicts have greater access to medication-assisted treatment for addiction, and newer laws help prevent fraudulent prescribing, Meara said.
For the study, Meara and her colleagues used Medicare data to assess the volume of opioid painkiller use among disabled beneficiaries, aged 21 to 64, from 2006 to 2012.
They found no discernible difference in opioid use or overdose as a result of tighter regulations. For example, 5 percent still had prescriptions for high doses of opioid painkillers -- more than 120 milligrams -- in 2012.
They found that 0.3 percent of these patients were treated for a nonfatal overdose in 2012, about the same as before tougher laws were enacted, Meara said.
Alexander is cautious about drawing broad conclusions from a single study, however. "A lot has happened since 2012, this is a rapidly evolving area," he said.
He also stressed that limiting use of opioid painkillers doesn't mean shortchanging patients in pain as some have feared, he added. There are many non-narcotic painkillers and non-drug treatments for chronic pain, he said.
These drugs do have a role for people in acute pain and those suffering at the end of life, Alexander said. "But that's not where we've seen the soaring increase. In the past two decades, it's been in the treatment of chronic, non-cancer pain," he said.
The report appears in the June 23 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.
For more on opioid painkillers, see the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse.
This article: Copyright © 2016 HealthDay. All rights reserved.