New research from the Pew Charitable Trusts shows Rhode Island is leading the nation when it comes to reducing painkiller prescriptions. State officials attribute the drop to education for doctors and patients about the risk of opioid overdose.
Doctors prescribed more than 2.7 million doses of opioids or prescription painkillers in February in Rhode Island. That sounds like a huge number. But Department of Health spokesman Dr. James McDonald says it’s an improvement.
“I think it’s representing what looks to me like a culture change among the prescribing community on how they’re viewing pain management," said McDonald. "I think it’s a very exciting and powerful development.”
That’s because research shows some people who start taking opioids can become addicted. A percentage can go on to use heroin. And both put people at risk of overdose.
New data from the Pew Charitable Trusts shows Rhode Island has decreased opioid prescribing by 16 percent over the past couple of years – more than any other state. McDonald says the new data surprised him, but he sees it happening.
“And we’re hearing more and more that they want to prescribe more responsibly. And that’s been the message from the Health Department for the last three years is: ‘prescribe responsibly,' said McDonald. "We want people to treat pain, but treat it appropriately, and really look at those non-opioid ways of treating pain.”
Alternatives to opioid painkillers include physical therapy, other kinds of medications, and even meditation.