Why Are Doctors Overprescribing Opiates In The US?

There are many root causes for why the opioid crisis has become such a large-scale epidemic. These causes range from the highly addictive nature of opioids, the commonplace practice of prescribing them for chronic pain, the affordability of heroin, and now the rise of fentanyl-laced substances. However, there is one cause of this epidemic that rests solely in the hands of doctors: overprescribing. Multiple studies from institutions like Harvard and John Hopkins University have shown that doctors overprescribed opioids at an alarming rate in the past. But why do doctors continue to overprescribe opioids and fuel the U.S. opioid crisis? It is worth taking a closer look and examining exactly what the root cause of opioid overprescribing is.


The Two Kinds Of Overprescribing

To fully understand why doctors are overprescribing opioids, it’s important to note the two separate forms of overprescribing.

The first form involves the number of pills given to help a patient recover from a surgical procedure. Since there is no universal standard, since every procedure is different, doctors are left to give any number of pills to help a patient recover, usually erring on the side of caution and overprescribing opioids.

The second form involves prescribing opioids when they are not needed. Many medical institutions including the University of Michigan and the Mayo Clinic have done studies and found that after minor surgeries, acetaminophen can be used in place of opioid painkillers to effectively eliminate pain. However, this is not commonplace in the medical community which leads doctors to overprescribe opioids when they are not necessary.


Patient Complaints

One of the primary reasons that doctors across the U.S. are overprescribing opioids is simply that they do not want to deal with the late-night calls of patients who have run out of pain medication and need it.

Dr. Ronald Hirsch illustrates this, writing in the Missouri Medicine Journal, “Prescribing 6 or 10 pills will undoubtedly result in a phone call from a pharmacist asking for a round number of pills, taking up time better spent entering meaningless information into our electronic health record systems.”

Doctors want to make sure patients have the tools they need to heal, which can, unfortunately, lead to that patient developing an opioid addiction from the many unnecessary pills they have been taking.


Pharmaceutical Incentives

Another reason why doctors are overprescribing opiates in the U.S. is far more sinister and is because pharmaceutical companies provide payment for the advocacy of certain drugs. An analysis from the Harvard Medical School and CNN found that doctors were being paid up to six-figure sums to consult, speak with, and provide other services to pharmaceutical companies regarding opioids. Additionally, this analysis found that the more opioids the doctor prescribed, the more money they ended up making. This analysis studied a period between 2014 and 2016, a time when the opioid crisis boomed and paved the way for many long-term opioid addictions people are still struggling with today.


Habits With Vicious Consequences

Lastly, perhaps the simplest reason of all could be the cause for why doctors are overprescribing opiates: a simple force of habit. Most prescriptions are given in variables of 30, to make it part of the patient’s routine to pick up their pills at the pharmacy every month. This simple habit would be extremely detrimental to someone being prescribed opioids, as withdrawal symptoms can develop as soon as a few weeks after consistently taking opioids. This force of habit causes massive overprescribing, which is a huge problem in the U.S.


If you are struggling with opioid dependency due to doctor overprescribing opioids, there is a path to healing at Fritz Clinic of Alabama. For over 35 years Fritz Clinic of Alabama has been helping aid in the healing of those addicted to opioids. We use medication-assisted treatment as well as counseling to make this transition as simple and effective as possible. If you need help, contact us today! Begin your journey back to health today at Fritz Clinic.