DEA to Decrease Production of Prescription Opioids By 25%
The Drug Enforcement Administration announced this week that beginning in 2017, it will decrease the production quotas of prescription opioids by at least 25%. Moreover, the amount of opioids that can be manufactured in the United States will be significantly reduced.
Aggregate production quotas represent the total amount needed to meet needs (medical, scientific, etc.) and still maintain reserve stock.
The DEA said the reductions are a reflection of estimated legitimate medical need and retail consumption, as well as data collected which includes manufacturer’s actual production numbers, sales, inventory, and exports.
“Demand for these opioid medicines, represented by prescriptions written by DEA-registered practitioners, has decreased.”
Included in the DEA’s reduction are oxycodone, oxymorphone, hydromorphone, and hydrocodone, among many others. All these drugs are Schedule II, meaning they have a high potential for abuse and physical/psychological dependence.
According to the DEA, hydrocodone (Norco) is the most prescribed opioid in the United States. This drug will have production reduced by 34%. Oxymorphine will be reduced by 45%, and hydromorphone by 38%.
Several U.S. Senators contacted the DEA back in July, requesting that the agency work more aggressively to “combat the opioid epidemic ravaging communities” by lowering manufacturing quotas:
“Fourteen billion opioid pills are now dispensed annually in the United States – enough for every adult American to have a bottle of pills. Certainly, the pharmaceutical industry is at fault for decades of misleading information about their products and the medical community bears responsibility for its role in over-prescribing these dangerous and addictive drugs, but we remain deeply troubled by the sheer volume of opioids available – volumes that are approved by the DEA.”
In 2014, more than 28,000 people across the country died from an opioid overdose. Whether the new quotas help put a dent in these figures remains to be seen.
One would presume that less prescription painkillers will lead to less abuse, addiction, and death. However, this drastic reduction worries me a bit. If current opioid addicts are not able to obtain their medication, they may switch to street drugs such as heroin – which currently is the norm, not the exception. In fact, 4 in 5 new heroin users report that they became addicted to prescription opioids before turning to heroin.
There is going to be more people who need treatment – and good treatment these days is still a rare commodity.
The good news is, perhaps doctors and pain clinics will take the opportunity to utilize alternatives to opioids, such as physical therapy.
~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology