A Helpful Tool to Combat the Opioid Crisis

The opioid crisis is so complex and so large — drug-related deaths now exceed those caused by cars, H.I.V. or guns — that there is no single solution. Among the partial ones: prescription drug monitoring programs, an approach highlighted in the draft report from President Trump’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis.

The epidemic has led every state but Missouri to establish one of these programs, which allow doctors and regulators to track how many opioid medications and other controlled substances have been dispensed to patients. A new analysis shows that prescription drug monitoring programs can reduce the overuse of narcotics — but that many states have adopted relatively weak versions.

Opioid medications, like Vicodin, Percocet or OxyContin, can be useful in treating pain. But when patients receive many prescriptions — whether from multiple doctors at the same time or from the same one for a long period of time — it can signal a problem. Patients with more pills than they need could endanger themselves or divert them to the black market. Longer-term use increases the risk of addiction and other bad outcomes.

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