Giving Compass' Take:

· Despite a dramatic decrease in volume of prescription painkillers since 2010, overdose rates have steadily increased. Jeffrey A. Singer explains that although the health care system is focused on limiting the amount of pain medication prescribed, there is no clear correlation between prescription volume and recreational use and addiction. 

· How can nonprofits and philanthropists take action against the opioid crisis? What are some other ways to address this epidemic and reduce the number of deaths caused by opioid abuse? 

· Here's how to take action in the private sector

A letter to the editor in the August 14 New England Journal of Medicine by researchers at the University of Michigan proudly reported on the results of their effort, called the Michigan Surgical Quality Collaborative (MSQC), to reduce the volume of opioids prescribed for postoperative pain. The Collaborative developed a set of guidelines for its participating prescribers.

As a result, they found that from January 2017 through May 2018, the mean number of pills prescribed for postoperative pain decreased from 26 (+/-2) pills pre-guideline to 18 (+/– 3) pills post-guideline. Patient pill consumption also decreased from an average of 12 pills (+/-1) pre-guideline to 9 pills (+/-2) post-guideline. During that period there was no discernible difference in the pain scores reported by these patients pre-and post-guideline.

It seems all of health care is now fixated on getting the number of prescription pain pills down. Yet there is no correlation between prescription volume and nonmedical use or use disorder/addiction. And as prescription volume has dramatically come down since 2010, the overdose rate has dramatically increased. Furthermore, in 2017 at least 75% of opioid-related overdoses were from heroin or fentanyl, while 40% of overdoses involving prescription opioids had multiple other drugs onboard, including heroin, fentanyl, alcohol, and tranquilizers.

Read the full article about prescription painkillers and the opioid crisis by Jeffrey A. Singer at the Cato Institute.