New data shows that Massachusetts doctors aren’t prescribing opioids to patients as often as they once did. Given the high rate of opioid prescription in this state in the past, this decrease may be a positive change for patients dealing with chronic injuries, pain and other issues. However, patients with injuries and pain that are no longer receiving opioid prescriptions must now find other treatment alternatives.
Why Are Opioids Prescribed?
Opioids are a specific type of medication often prescribed to relieve pain. Examples of common opioids include codeine, morphine, oxycodone and hydrocodone. They work by decreasing the intensity of the signals reaching the brain when the body is in pain. These drugs are usually effective, but they can also be habit-forming. In addition, some patients may build up a tolerance to opioids, causing them to require a higher dosage of the drug for the same effect. As a result, doctors and nurse practitioners are now becoming more cautious about opioids, thus explaining the decrease in the frequency of opioid prescriptions in 2016.
About the Report
According to the Boston Globe, a recent analysis showed that the number of opioid prescriptions issued by physicians in Massachusetts had dropped by 25 percent since the beginning of 2015. This drop was much more significant that the average decrease for the nation as a whole, which was only 13 percent. Specifically, at the beginning of 2015, the percentage of patients prescribed opioids in Massachusetts was 7 percent. By the end of the first quarter in 2016, the percentage of patients prescribed opioids in Massachusetts had fallen to 5.2 percent.
Massachusetts’ Past Trends
In recent years, patients in Massachusetts had been receiving prescriptions for opioids at an alarming rate. Deaths and overdose related to opioids were also increasing. For example, in 2014 alone, at least 1,047 people in Massachusetts died from intentional or unintentional opioid overdose. The number of deaths had been increasing consistently since 2000.
Although a decrease in the frequency of opioid prescriptions is perceived as a positive change, some patients may not see it that way. For people suffering from chronic pain and/or injuries, the loss of access to a medication that could relieve symptoms can be frightening. Fortunately, there are alternatives to opioids for patients dealing with chronic physical problems. Depending on the specifics of the patient’s condition, alternatives may include physical therapy, other types of medication and/or surgical procedures.
Chronic and/or severe injuries are always difficult to face, especially when they cause pain. If you have been injured simply because you were doing your job, your situation is even more challenging. Fortunately, you may be able to recover benefits from workers’ compensation to help with some of your expenses, including the cost of prescription medications and medical care. With this compensation, you will be able to get the care you need, whether that involves medications, physical therapy, surgical procedures, time off work or some other method of recovery.
In many cases, workers’ compensation will initially deny a valid claim. However, even if you have already been denied, you may still be able to qualify for the benefits you deserve with the help of a workers’ compensation attorney. To learn more about your options, please contact John J. Sheehan.