Curbing Prescribing Trends After Hospital Discharge

Addict being discharged

One of the first steps that need to be taken in curbing the American opiate addiction epidemic would be in curbing prescribing trends in both hospitals and doctors' offices. Unfortunately, as much as such an action has been recommended and encouraged by focus groups and federal organizations alike, little progress has been made in cutting back on opioid prescribing trends. In fact, most doctors will even continue to prescribe opioid drugs to patients who have recently experienced an overdose. There is truly something very wrong with that picture.

According to one study, more than one in five patients who were treated for an opioid overdose at a hospital filled prescriptions for opioid drugs within thirty days of their discharge. This is truly wrong, and it shows an extreme flaw in how our current medical industry approaches opioid pain relievers.

Another way to look at it is if a person almost shot themselves with a gun on March 1st, would anyone in their right minds give them another gun on March 15th? That is exactly what is happening when doctors and pharmacists knowingly supply opioid pharmaceuticals to patients who just barely escaped an overdose death on those very same opioids just days before. They may as well sign the patient’s death certificate while they're at it.


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one-hundred people die from an overdose on opioid prescription pain reliever drugs every single day. An American dies from these drugs once every fifteen minutes or so. All of this points in the direction that doctors and physicians are simply being far too generous in their prescribing trends for powerful painkiller drugs. In 2012, U.S. medical officials wrote more than two-hundred and fifty-nine million prescriptions for painkillers, enough to medicate almost every single American adult. Currently, in 2018, there are enough opiate painkillers circulating through the United States to medicate every American adult for a full month.

A Flaw in the System

According to the Truven Health MarketScan Commercial Claims and Encounters database, twenty-two percent of patients discharged from a hospital for an opioid overdose filled prescriptions for opiates within thirty days of leaving the hospital.

In a statement of true irony, more patients filled a prescription for an opiate than patients who filled a prescription for a medicine that could potentially help them fight an opiate addiction! Only sixteen percent of patients discharged from a hospital for an opioid overdose ended up filling prescriptions for anti-opioid medications. Furthermore, forty percent of patients discharged from hospitals following an overdose actually ended up filling a prescription for an antidepressant, which is not necessarily something a freshly discharged opiate overdose survivor should be taking. Antidepressants are addictive too, and can also cause fatal overdoses of their own when patients take too much of them.

This is a pretty huge flaw in the medical system, all said and done. The gun analogy above hits the nail on the head perfectly. We need re-education and remediation away from opiate prescribing, not more opiate prescribing. This is not a “fight fire with fire” problem. We can’t fix the modern day American opiate epidemic by throwing more opiates at it. It just doesn’t work that way.

We can only fix the modern day opiate problem by getting addicts off of opiates and by helping patients who truly do suffer from pain to find an alternative, holistic, drug-free approaches to handling their pain. This needs to be the focus going forward because the very health of our country depends on it. There are alternatives and better solutions for both addicts and pain patients. No one needs to suffer with addiction or with chronic pain.




After working in addiction treatment for several years, Ren now travels the country, studying drug trends and writing about addiction in our society. Ren is focused on using his skill as an author and counselor to promote recovery and effective solutions to the drug crisis. Connect with Ren on LinkedIn.