A new study shows that when it comes to opioid painkillers most of these drugs are prescribed by a general practitioner and not by pill mills as many mistakenly believe. Stanford University researchers found that the medical professionals who prescribed the highest number of schedule II opioids in the year 2013 were family practice physicians, with more than 15 million prescriptions written by this type of medical professional in 2013. The next highest group when it came to prescribing prescription opioid painkillers that are often used for prescription drug abuse were internal medicine specialists, and this group prescribed a little under 13 million prescriptions for this type of drug. Nurse practitioners prescribed these drugs 4.1 million times in the same year, and the number of prescriptions written for this class of medication by physician assistants was a little more than 3 million.
The study on opioid painkillers and prescription drug abuse was surprising for many in the medical community. According to Stanford Health Policy VA Medical Informatics Fellow, medical instructor, and lead author of the study Jonathan Chen, M.D., Ph.D., “The bulk of opioid prescriptions are distributed by the large population of general practitioners. These findings indicate law enforcement efforts to shut down pill-mill prescribers are insufficient to address the widespread overprescribing of opioids. Efforts to curtail national opioid overprescribing must address a broad swath of prescribers to be effective.” Chen continued by saying “Being a physician myself, I am acutely aware of the emotional angst that can occur when deciding whether to prescribe opioids to a patient who may have simultaneously developed a chronic-pain and substance-dependence problem. The public health epidemic of opioid overuse is perhaps not surprising given the tenfold increase in volume over the past 20 years.”