Ohio doctors are prescribing fewer opioids while pharmacists are dispensing fewer doses, according to a state report released Monday.
The total number of opioid doses dispensed in Ohio decreased by 41 percent since 2012, according to a new report by the Ohio Board of Pharmacy. Opioid prescriptions also decreased by 37 percent, with 4.6 million fewer prescriptions in 2018 than in 2012.
Board of Pharmacy policy and communications director Cameron McNamee says the decreases result from growing awareness within the medical community.
“There is a more cautious attitude toward the prescribing of these substances and when they are beneficial for their patients,” McNamee said. “What we’re trying to focus on is preventing the initial addictions from ever occurring, so reducing the overall exposure to opioids via the healthcare system.”
Still, Ohio’s overdose deaths reached a record high in 2017, with many linked to the painkiller fentanyl. Ohio now has the second-highest rate in the country.
McNamee says he hopes limiting exposure to opioids within the health care system will prevent initial addictions that ultimately lead people to other drugs like heroin.
“What we don’t want to do is take our eye off the ball when it comes to the prescribing of these drugs,” McNamee said. “Sometimes we hear, ‘Oh well no, it’s no longer a prescription drug problem, it’s a heroin, it's a fentanyl problem,’ but people always forget how we got ourselves into this issue.”
Although statewide 2018 overdose numbers haven’t been released yet, McNamee says a few initial reports from Ohio counties that show either a leveling-off or a decrease in overdose deaths could signal the state is turning a corner in the opioid epidemic.