Why Do Doctors Prescribe Addictive Prescription Drugs?
Some drugs are considered safe enough to be sold over-the-counter and are available without a prescription. Other drugs are considered controlled substances. The United States Drug Enforcement Agency explains that these are classified into five categories, known as schedules. Determination is based on a drug’s medical use and abuse potential. Schedule l drugs have high abuse potential and no accepted medical use. Potentially addictive prescription drugs are classified in Schedule II through V. Doctors prescribe these drugs, despite their potential risks, for a variety of reasons.
Motivations for Prescribing Drugs with Abuse Potential
Reasons that physicians may prescribe potentially addicting drugs include the following:
- They believe the benefits outweigh the risks – If a patient is in pain, and a prescription opioid is likely to relieve it, the benefit of prescribing the medication is easy to see. The potential for future addiction problems is less evident and immediate. Aggressive marketing efforts by drug companies may skew the risk/benefit analysis. A 2013 New Yorker article notes that an increase in the prescribing of opioid painkillers coincided with increased marketing efforts from drug manufacturers. The companies promoted their drugs through continuing-education courses and ads in respected publications. They also funded non-profits. One of which published guidelines urging doctors to increase the prescribing of opioid painkillers.
- They are pressured by patients – A 2012 article reports that when patients ask their doctors for a specific prescription, they have a 76% chance of receiving it. Patients may become aware of specific drugs in a variety of ways including through direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising. The United States is one of only two countries that allow direct-to-consumer (DTC) marketing of prescription products.
- They are fooled – Patients may ask for a drug because they truly believe it will help a medical condition, but they may also ask for a drug because they are already dependent on it. “Doctor shopping” is common among people suffering from addiction. Many diagnoses are based solely or primarily on patient reports making deception possible. College students looking for stimulants can learn the symptoms of ADHD and report them as their own in order to receive prescriptions. Those looking for benzodiazepines may report anxiety or insomnia, and people looking for opioids are likely to report pain.
- They lack training in recognizing addiction – A 2012 Washington Post article reports on a study finding that most doctors fail to diagnose or identify substance abuse in their patients. Physicians who do not recognize the addiction problem to drugs like Clonzepam are more likely to contribute to it.
- They lack time – Prescribing a medication is a quick way to treat a patient’s complaints and move on to the next person in need of help. Time pressures are real, even when a drug’s dangers are recognized. A 2013 article in Virtual Mentor, a publication of the American Medical Association discusses the prescribing of opioid pain relievers in emergency rooms. The author notes that doctors often prescribe “a few tablets” to move patients out of the emergency department convincing themselves that the harm is minimal since the amount prescribed is small.
- They may not be well versed in alternative methods of treatment – A 2014 MedPage Today article reported that primary care physicians wrote about four times more prescriptions for benzodiazepine medications than did psychiatrists. Benzodiazepine drugs are often prescribed to treat anxiety. Although psychiatrists are likely to be trained and experienced in many more ways of treating anxiety than primary care physicians are, multiple factors, including insurance considerations, may lead patients to seek help from their family doctor instead.
The Prescribing of Addicting Drugs by Non-Physicians
Physicians are not the only people authorized to prescribe addicting medication like Clonazepam. In many states, physician assistants, nurse practitioners and others are granted prescribing privileges. A 2014 article in the Milwaukee, Wisconsin Journal Sentinel reports that in 2013, 92 million prescriptions for narcotic pain relievers were written by primary care physicians, and another 30 million were written by non-doctors. Non-physician prescribers also wrote 11 million prescriptions for benzodiazepine drugs.
Combating the Problem of Prescription Drug Abuse
Prescription drug abuse is an enormous societal problem. A lack of understanding of the dangers of prescription products has been implicated as a contributing factor. Experts recommend addressing the issue from many angles including encouraging physicians to issue stronger warnings and provide more education when prescribing products with significant addiction risk.
If you have become addicted to a prescription drug like Clonazepam, we can help you find freedom. Call our toll-free helpline, available 24 hours a day, and let us answer your questions and assist you in understanding and identifying your treatment options. We can also check your insurance coverage if you wish at no cost or obligation. Addiction ruins lives. Let us help you reclaim yours.