As opioid prescriptions fall, prescriptions for drugs to treat addiction rise

The number of new prescriptions for drugs that treat opioid addiction nearly doubled over the course of 2017, from 42,000 per month to 82,000, according to the IQVIA Institute for Human Data Science. The trend comes amid a campaign by the Trump administration and many states to expand access to these medications in an attempt to combat the nation's opioid epidemic. The increase also accompanies a decline in the number of prescriptions for opioid analgesics, which have been falling since 2011, according to the IQVIA report. However, it also prompts questions about whether some pain patients are now being undertreated, and whether restricted prescribing has contributed to the hike in overdose deaths from heroin and fentanyl. One doctor also warned that there is no way of knowing from the data whether the prescriptions came with behavioral therapy and other support, which most experts recommend for people taking addiction medication. Meanwhile, the federal government predicts that only about 20% of the approximately 2.6 million people believed to suffer from addiction are receiving some type of treatment, and only about one-third of those are getting buprenorphine, naltrexone, or methadone.

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