The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is the agency responsible for the regulation of particular food and drug products throughout the United States. Being that there is a severe drug epidemic going on, many people want answers as to how it happened and what’s being done about it. Each year, the amount people spend on prescription drugs is outrageous, and appears to keep increasing. The most recent numbers reflect the seriousness of the problem, with $374 billion being contributed towards prescriptions in one year. That hefty amount means America is spending around $1,000 per person each year towards some form of prescribed medication.
In 2013, the FDA began recognizing drug use, particularly opioid painkillers, was becoming an epidemic in the United States and they needed to take action to regulate it. In response to nationwide abuse, the FDA began encouraging prescribers to thoroughly evaluate their patients before prescribing such potentially addictive medications. They asked doctors to ensure the pain was going to be severe enough to justify the inherent risk of addiction.
There are two different types of opioid medications available on the market: immediate-release (IR) and extended release/long-acting (ER/LA). Immediate-release drugs are designed to be taken every 4-6 hours and include medications such as morphine, fentanyl, and oxycodone. Long acting opioid medications are meant to be taken only once or twice daily and include drugs such as oxycontin, dolophine, and avinza.
When the FDA first decided to take action against the drug epidemic, they began changing labels on opioid medications. They first altered directions for immediate-release tablets, providing clearer instructions for dosage and patient monitoring. Physicians are now advised to abruptly discontinue the use of IR opioid medications if patients are showing any kind of dependence or addiction to them. Shortly after, they changed the labeling on all long-acting opioid analgesics as well to include extensive warnings to physicians about the potential for addiction caused by these medications.
Prescription opioid use has become a severe problem in the United States, and it can often lead to more serious drugs, such as heroin. The FDA advises doctors to exhaust efforts trying other non-opioid analgesics before prescribing opioid painkillers. Currently, 90 people each day die from an opioid overdose, and the FDA is aware and attempting to combat it. Unfortunately, no single party has yet to be successful in solving the problem that has swept our nation and claimed thousands of lives.
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