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Opioid prescriptions drop in Wisconsin, overdose deaths rise

Image courtesy MGN Online.

MADISON (AP) -- State records show that opioid overdose deaths continue to rise in Wisconsin despite fewer opioids being dispensed.

The state saw 17.5 million fewer opioid dosages dispensed from April to June, according to Prescription Drug Monitoring Program. That's a 12 percent decrease from the same time period in 2016, according to the Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services.

The rate of opioid deaths in the state has nearly doubled in the past decade, Wisconsin Public Radio reported. Some doctors say that increase could be attributed to over-prescribing opioids.

"We have an attitude toward pain that it's totally unnecessary to feel pain," state Sen. Janet Bewley, D-Ashland, said at a Friday meeting of Gov. Scott Walker's Task Force on Opioid Abuse.

Some patients become reluctant to give up pills once they've started taking them, even if they no longer feel pain, Bewley said.

"If we don't change the cultural expectations of patients, (overprescribing) is not going to get fixed," said Dr. Timothy Westlake.

Westlake said doctors must also rethink opioid use.

"The whole premise that chronic pain is treated well with opioids is false," he said. "That's the fallacy the medical community bought 20 years ago."

Doctors on the task force said they're educating fellow members about alternative pain medications and proper opioid use.

"An opioid limit is not the answer. The answer is to change the prescribing practices to deliver what the patients need," Westlake said.

The state medical examining board has issued prescribing guidelines, including requiring doctors to check prescription databases when prescribing opioids in order to prevent patients from getting multiple prescriptions from different doctors.

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This story has been corrected to show Wisconsin had 17.5 million fewer opioid dosages dispensed, rather than 17 million fewer prescriptions, from April to June.

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