As the number of opioid prescriptions written by doctors is decreasing, the amount of medications handed out to treat pain killer addictions is on the rise, according to new research.
The report conducted by the IQVIA Institute for Human Data Science — which studies prescription drug use - found that prescriptions for opioid pain pills have been decreasing since 2011, with a sudden drop in 2017 of 12%. It was the steepest drop-off in drug prescriptions for the entire year.
"Prescription opioid volume peaked in 2011 at 240 billion MME (milligrams of morphine equivalents) and has declined by 29% to 171 billion," the study reads. "The largest single year change in 2017 was a decline of 23.3 billion MMEs, or 12%."
The number of people prescribed an opioid for the first time decreased by nearly 8% in 2017 - a number that went up by a percent the previous year.
These declines are aligned with a number of new state laws aimed at tackling the nation's opioid epidemic, which continues to claim the lives of 115 people every day, according to the federal government.
"Decreases in prescription opioid volume have been driven by changes in clinical usage," the report said, "which have been influenced by regulatory and reimbursement policies and legislation that have been increasingly restricting prescription opioid use since 2012."
In states like New York and Pennsylvania, people who are prescribed an opioid for the first time cannot be written more than seven days-worth of any of the drugs, like oxycodone or fentanyl. But according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, there are still 22 states that have enacted zero legislation with any type of limits, guidance or requirements related to opioid prescribing as of this month.
The report also found that as the number of opioid prescriptions lessens, the number of drugs prescribed to combat opioid addictions, like buprenorphine and naltrexone, nearly doubled during 2017 from 42,000 per month to 82,000.