Are Physicians The Key To Curbing The Opioid Crisis?

By Beth Leipholtz 03/22/18

A recent USA Today op-ed suggests that more doctors need to change their opioid prescribing habits. 

a physician eexamining 2 pill bottles

The key to curbing the opioid crisis could lie in the very hands that write the prescriptions: the physicians. 

While not all opioids are prescription painkillers, they are said to play a large role in the crisis. In fact, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) states that each day, about 40 people die due to prescription opioid overdoses. 

A recent USA Today editorial highlights the issue, stating, “Far too many physicians haven't changed their prescribing habits, even in the face of government guidance, state restrictions, heavy news coverage and studies showing the advantages of other painkillers.”

The editorial outlined President Trump’s talking points from a recent speech he gave in New Hampshire. While the president’s thoughts on the idea of instituting the death penalty for some drug dealers garnered the most attention, he also spoke about preventing opioid use in the first place.

In his speech, Trump stated, “The best way to beat the drug crisis is to keep people from getting hooked on drugs to begin with.” 

Additionally, Trump mentioned a specific goal for the coming years. 

“We’re going to cut nationwide opioid prescriptions by one-third over the next three years,” he said in the speech. “We’re also going to make sure that virtually all prescriptions reimbursed by the federal government follow best practices for prescribing.” 

As the editorial states, much of this starts with physicians. Unfortunately, the editorial board points out, not all physicians seem inclined to play a role in combating the crisis. In fact, some physicians—often those who prescribe large quantities of opioids—have been paid a great amount by opioid manufacturers for speaking and consulting.  

“At the very least, shouldn’t money from manufacturers that originally marketed these drugs as non-addictive, and helped produce a generation of addicts, be considered off-limits?” the USA Today editorial board asks. “Shouldn’t doctors and their associations be embarrassed by such relationships and call for them to end?”

As for those physicians who believe prescribing opioids is in the best interest of a chronic pain patient, the editorial board points out that recent studies have proven that some over-the-counter pain relievers are as effective as opioids for certain chronic pain conditions. 

Some states have taken the initiative to control the overprescription of opioids. According to USA Today, “Several states have passed laws limiting initial opioid prescriptions for acute pain to about a week.” Such states include New Jersey and Kentucky. 

In the end though, it all comes back to where opioid access starts, says the board. 

“Prescription opioids, dangerous in their own right, have become gateways to heroin, to illicit fentanyl and too often to death,” the editorial reads. “A top priority for any new strategy is to keep more people from walking through that door in the first place.”

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Beth is a Minnesota girl who got sober at age 20. By day she is a website designer, and in her spare time she enjoys writing about recovery at, doing graphic design and spending time with her boyfriend and three dogs. Find Beth on LinkedInInstagram and Twitter.