Americans support training as a way to combat Rx drug abuse
BALTIMORE — More than one-in-four Americans has taken prescription painkillers in the past year, even as a majority say that abuse of these medications is a very serious public health concern, according to new Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health research released Wednesday.
The findings, published online Oct. 7 in the journal Addiction, suggest that the public may be poised to support a number of policy measures designed to control access to painkillers, including instituting better medical training in controlling pain and treating addiction, requiring doctors to ensure patients don’t receive multiple painkiller prescriptions from different providers and requiring pharmacists to check identification before distributing pain prescriptions.
“This study shows that many Americans have had direct experience using prescription pain relievers and a sizable share have misused or abused these medications themselves or have close friends or family members who have done so,” stated study leader Colleen Barry, an associate professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Bloomberg School. “The seriousness of the issue has become salient with the American public.”
As many as 58% of survey respondents ranked prescription pain medication abuse as either a very serious or extremely serious health issue, Barry said.
The study, based on a web-based public opinion survey of 1,111 adults in the United States in February 2014, was designed to understand attitudes about prescription painkiller use and abuse. Among the findings: Most people blame those who abuse painkillers and the doctors who prescribe them for the current public health crisis.
Policy proposals with the highest levels of public support were requiring pharmacies to verify patient identification before giving out prescription pain medication (84%), requiring medical school and physician residency programs to provide training for physicians in how to detect and treat addiction to prescription pain medication (83%) and requiring medical school and physician residency programs to train physicians to treat chronic pain (82%).
Funding for this study was obtained through an unrestricted research grant from AIG.