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How Closely Should Doctors Monitor Painkiller Use in Patients?

How Closely Should Doctors Monitor Painkiller Use in Patients?As our nation is suffering from a prescription drug abuse epidemic, it should be expected that doctors take more care and concern as to how they are prescribing painkillers and to whom they are prescribing them. While not everyone is equipped to handle doses of painkiller medication, it is important that doctors take some routine caution before prescribing these medications as well as follow up with patients who are currently taking them.

Preemptive Prescribing

Part of a doctor’s responsibility is to ensure that they are giving the correct medications to the correct patients. This means not only examining if the painkiller physically safe for the patient to take but also discerning if the patient is mentally stable enough to handle this type of medication.

  • Talk history – Doctors should know their patients’ past medical history, including their physical and psychological records. Any and all injuries should be accounted for, including the type of medication used at the time of the injury and how it was used by the patient. The doctor should also know the kinds of mental disorders the user may have as many disorders (especially depression or anxiety) can lead to an urge to use painkillers for unintended purposes.
  • Talk family – While addiction is a disease, it is partly genetic and partly environmental. Doctors should talk with their patients about their blood relatives’ history of addiction to determine if they are more likely to develop a dependency issue. Doctors should also know about a patient’s home life and possible traumas that may have occurred in their lives so they can begin to examine their psychological soundness before prescribing a painkiller.

Monitoring Painkiller Use

If a doctor has cleared his or her patient of all potential addiction triggers, then he or she can then begin looking into prescribing them painkillers that can help alleviate their individual situation. While they might have passed the preemptive tests, doctors should still monitor their patients to rule out any misuse.

  • Monitoring systems – Most states currently have prescription drug monitoring systems in their offices. These systems are used by doctors to ensure that their patients are not “doctor shopping.” This database keeps record of patients’ prescription refill activity, allowing their primary care physician or another doctor to see if they are moving from doctor to doctor looking for pills.
  • Limiting prescriptions – Rather than providing a patient with a full prescription of painkillers, doctors should only give as much as needed to avoid misuse, overdose and the potential for dealing to others.
  • Checking in – Doctors should require their patients to come in for check-ups on a regular basis in order to check with them. Being able to physically see the patient, as well as get their take on how their medication is working is a great way to determine if a dependency is developing. An in-office visit allows a doctor to see through any deception a patient may use to conceal their abuse.

All doctors should make sure they are taking the time before prescribing painkillers to determine if their patients are fit to handle the use of such a risky drug. Even those who might seem ready for this serious medication can find themselves quickly addicted. This is why it is important for doctors to continue their care through monitoring, controlling the substance and having their patients come in for regular check-ups.

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