After years of increasing use, federal data suggests that opioid prescriptions are starting to decline in the US, possibly in an effort to stem an ever-worsening drug abuse epidemic.
But new research suggests that many doctors still prescribe these strong medications – even for relatively minor injuries.
In fact, a quarter of the patients treated for ankle sprains between 2011 and 2015 left the hospital with an opioid prescription, according to an emergency medical paper published in Annals.
To achieve this result, researchers from the University of Pennsylvania analyzed private insurance claims from nearly 31
In total, 25.1% of these patients received an opioid prescription, the researchers found. The average opioid prescription was relatively low-dose, delivering about 15 tablets, or enough for three days, but a small number of people received prescriptions equivalent to more than 30 tablets of moderate oxycodone – which is "high" potential for abuse, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration , "
Almost 5% of these patients who received prescriptions of this strength developed into prolonged opioid use, compared with about 1% of patients who received more moderate prescriptions and 0.5% of patients who did not receive prescription opioids
Prescribing habits also varied widely from state to state, the researchers found: in Arkansas, for example, 40% of patients on opioid prescriptions walked away, compared with nearly 3% of people in North Dakota.  The study, funded in part by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), shows recently how physician-prescribed opioids can contribute to a long-term substance e.An estimated 80% of people who eventually consume heroin were initially abusing prescription drugs, according to NIDA Drugs.
Despite the prevalence of opioid medications, studies suggest that Prescription painkillers are just as effective on most injuries Many Americans would prefer to treat pain without medication.
In 2016, one year after the end of the research period of the new study, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention adopted new, stricter guidelines for prescribers. And in 2017, the CVS pharmacy began restricting access to opioids.