Number of Opioid Prescriptions Continues to Decrease in Alabama

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CONTRIBUTED BY
MEDICAL ASSOCIATION 

STATE OF ALABAMA

OPINION — 

Alabama physicians are taking action to reduce the number and potency of opioid prescriptions and to increase access to medication that rapidly reverses opioid overdoses, according to a new report released Thursday from the American Medical Association.

The report shows:

• Opioid prescriptions in Alabama decreased 41.6% from 2012 to 2021. From 2020 to 2021, opioid prescriptions in the state declined 1.6%, marking the eighth consecutive year the number of opioid prescriptions in Alabama has dropped.

• The dosage strength of opioid prescriptions fell 52.7% from 2012 to 2021 and dropped 6.5% between 2020 to 2021.

• Prescriptions of naloxone to treat patients at risk of an opioid overdose rose 851% between 2012 to 2021 and 35.4% from 2020 to 2021.

• Physicians and other healthcare professionals accessed the state’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program more than 5.5 million times in 2021, an increase of 3% from 2020. Health care providers who dispense opioids in Alabama must report the information to the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program to help physicians detect the abuse and misuse of prescriptions.

The Medical Association of the state of Alabama was one of the first medical associations in the country to offer a continuing education course to train physicians on safely and effectively prescribing opioids. Since 2009, more than 8,000 prescribers in Alabama have completed the course.

“Alabama physicians are advancing the fight against the opioid crisis by continuing to reduce the number and potency of prescribed opioids in our state, and by furthering our education on opioids,” said Dr. Julia Boothe, president of the Medical Association of the state of Alabama. “While we are making good progress in these areas under a physician’s control, Alabama is in a worsening overdose epidemic due primarily to illicitly manufactured fentanyl, which is found in more than 75% of counterfeit pills and other substances. No community is safe from this poison.”

Fentanyl overdose deaths in Alabama increased a staggering 135.9% from 2020 to 2021, (453 deaths in 2020 to 1,069 in 2021).

Dr. Bobby Mukkamala, chair of the American Medical Association’s Substance Use and Pain Care Task Force, said fentanyl is “supercharging” the increase in fatal drug overdoses.

“What is becoming painfully evident is that there are limits to what physicians can do,” Mukkamala said. “We have dramatically increased training and changed our prescribing habits, reducing the number of opioids prescribed while increasing access to naloxone, buprenorphine and methadone. But illicitly manufactured fentanyl is supercharging this epidemic.” 

RESOURCES FOR HELP: Alabamians looking for a list of substance abuse treatment services can go online to druguse.alabama.gov.

To read the full report: www.end-overdose-epidemic.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/AMA-Advocacy-2022-Overdose-Epidemic-Report_090622.pdf.

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