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New Study: 90% Of Overdose Patients Get More Drugs

OVERDOSE-DRUG-STUDYIt’s no secret that opioids have played a key role in a growing national crisis here in the United States. From drug policy reform to politics, the conversation about prescription drug use and addiction is getting louder. So it might come as a surprise to learn that even amid all the talk about opioid addiction, one study showed that many of those who overdose on prescription drugs are able to obtain another prescription without difficulty.

Drug Overdose Study

A close look at overdose survivors

In 2014, more than 1,200 people died in Massachusetts from overdosing on prescription drugs. Many more survived. A recent article in The Boston Globe highlights a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine where researchers posed the question: What happens to people who survive a prescription drug overdose? The results were, to say the least, a bit troublesome.

The study, conducted by Boston Medical Center, showed that more than 90% of the survivors were able to find another prescription for the drugs they overdosed on. And, according to Marc R. Larochelle, the study’s lead author, it wasn’t because they found a new doctor to write it.

“Ninety-one percent got another prescription for an opioid,” said Larochelle, who is also an internal medicine physician. “Seventy percent got it from the doctor who had prescribed before the overdose.”

How could this happen?

With all the awareness surrounding the opioid crisis, how could this possibly be happening? The study suggests it comes down a basic breakdown in communication.

Dr. Jessica Gregg, an addiction medical director out of Portland, Oregon, authored an editorial write-up to accompany the Boston Medical Center study. In her editorial, she said that the issue comes down to lack of process. Because there is no communication process in place to tell doctors when a patient overdoses, the only way a doctor learns about a patient overdose is if the patient tells them, which Larochelle says doesn’t happen very often.

How can the problem be fixed?

The study provided a few proposals for addressing the problem. It suggested making revisions to the existing state prescription monitoring programs to include reports of overdoses. It also proposed that insurance companies require prior authorization for opioid prescriptions for patients who’ve overdosed, and that an alert system be created where insurance companies notify physicians if their patients overdose.

Getting help after – or before – an overdose

Policy and healthcare may have some catching up to do in order to create a system that better serves addicts, but if you’re dealing with addiction, you don’t have to wait to get help. Any overdose can be deadly. If you or a loved one has experienced an overdose, or if substance abuse has simply gotten out of control, The Watershed has a team of professionals who can help. Don’t wait to get the care you need. Contact us now!

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