Opioid Prescription Rates Drop in Wisconsin

By Paul Gaita 11/14/16

The prescription drug monitoring database is one of the factors that contributed to the decline. 

Opioid Prescription Rates Drop in Wisconsin

While the number of opioid prescriptions written in the United States has quadrupled in the last decade, doctors in Wisconsin have been issuing fewer such prescriptions for a full year.

A report from the Wisconsin Controlled Substances Board showed that prescriptions in Wisconsin have dropped 10% since November 2015, which Lori Cross Schotten, a spokesperson for the addiction and recovery advocacy group Wisconsin United We CAN, attributes to there being more information about opioid addiction as well as an increase in recovery programs.

"Continued education for both doctors and patients on the risks of opioids is key to helping people make the best choice for pain control," Cross Schotten said. She also pointed to programs like Recovery Coach, which links overdose patients with certified coaches trained in addiction recovery. Such programs may help doctors to use the prescription drug monitoring database (PDMD), which tracks patients' prescription histories, with greater regularity.

The report from the Controlled Substances Board included data from a survey of physicians about their use of the PDMD. According to the report, 37% of participating physicians and 28% of participating pharmacists use the database. However, only 14% of physicians and pharmacists reported using the PDMD in July, which shows that it has yet to become a consistent tool for medical professionals.

And while the decline in prescriptions offers encouragement, Cross Schotten also noted that more work must be done to help patients already addicted to opioids. Fewer prescriptions written often translated into a complete cut-off from drugs for these individuals, who frequently turn to heroin to supplement their addiction.

Insurance companies can expand access to and coverage for non-traditional pain management methods like acupressure, as would greater adherence to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's guidelines for reducing the prescribing of opioids, said Cross Schotten.

"While I believe it is a positive thing that we are being cautious on writing new prescriptions, we also need to be cautious about how we help those already taking these prescriptions wean off of them," she noted.

Wisconsin could use some more positive news in regard to its struggle with opioid addiction.

A report from the state's Department of Health Services found that 872 people died from drug overdoses in 2015, with 20% of them attributed to prescription opioids.

"We have a culture that is very focused on pills or quick solutions," said Lieutenant Jason Freedman of the Dane County Narcotics Task Force. "The triggering event of the problem is the over prescription of opiates."

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, Amazon.com and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites.