According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of opioids prescribed in the U.S. has quadrupled in the past 15 years, even though there has been no change in the amount of pain reported by patients. In 2013, health care providers wrote enough opioid prescriptions for every adult American to have their own bottle of pills.
It doesn’t have to be this way. We can provide pain management to the patients who need it without flooding our communities with dangerous pills. It starts with improved provider training, which should begin in medical school.
Shatterproof believes that better education for our healthcare providers is an important tool to prevent dangerous painkiller misuse. That’s why we supported S. 2711, the Enhancing Access to Addiction Treatment Act. This provision was ultimately included in H.R. 6, the new comprehensive opioids law, and will create a new grant program to support the development of medical school courses that will lead to a new generation of physicians with expertise on how to identify and treat addiction.
For students who complete these or equivalent courses during medical school, S. 2711 will also create a more streamlined pathway for obtaining a DATA waiver upon graduation, which would permit that provider to prescribe buprenorphine. This will save many lives by increasing the number of qualified providers of medication-assisted treatment, and by ensuring that any provider who’s able to prescribe an opioid for pain is also able to prescribe medications to treat opioid addiction.
Ultimately, we need to ensure that physicians who prescribe opioids are continuing to receive education throughout their career on opioid addiction and treatment. This could be accomplished by including a continuing education requirement for physicians obtaining or renewing registration with the Drug Enforcement Administration to prescribe controlled substances. It’s also important that the training itself be comprehensive, covering opioid misuse detection, appropriate prescribing guidelines, and substance use disorder treatment.
Common-sense legislation like this is essential prevention. By giving medical professionals better training on substance use disorders, we can ensure more Americans are receiving the comprehensive treatment they need. And by continuing to train providers on the safe and appropriate uses for opioids, we can reduce dangerous overprescribing and limit the number of pills available for misuse and diversion—while also ensuring that pain patients receive the care they need.