Health Sciences Center leader pushes for federal limits on prescribing opioids

Summary and Analysis

An opinion piece from Richard S. Larson, M.D., Ph.D., executive vice chancellor at the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center. This lays out three steps he believes the federal government should take to help control over-prescription of opioids and thereby slow the flow of new cases of addiction. 

Excerpted from The Hill

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The United States has long been plagued by drug addiction, but our current epidemic of opioid abuse, with its growing toll of overdose deaths, is starkly different.

It is partially driven by soaring rates of opioid prescribing, rather than by illegal street drugs. Deaths from prescription opioids have climbed in parallel with opioid prescribing in the U.S., which quadrupled from 1999 to 2010.

Retail pharmacies dispensed 215 million opioid prescriptions in 2016— enough to provide a bottle of narcotics to two-thirds of all Americans.

This epidemic calls for federal action to limit the quantity of opioids prescribed. This starts with acknowledging that the medical establishment helped create the crisis in the first place by over-prescribing opioids to treat chronic non-cancer pain.