Prescription drug abuse is a global problem and is on the rise in the United States. According to a study done by the New York Times, death rates from opioid abuse have soared to a new high of 65,000. It is now the leading cause of death for Americans aged 50 and younger. So what is responsible for this problem?

A Complicated Issue

Prescription drug abuse is a complicated issue. Opioids carry a high “street value” and are easy to sell. Patients will often exaggerate symptoms in order to obtain prescriptions. They also utilize emergency room care to avoid ongoing physician supervision.

Prescription drug companies must also share the blame. They market their drugs directly to patients through advertisements which increases the demand without adequate education about the dangers of these drugs.

However, new studies show that physicians are also to blame. A recent study by Princeton University reveals a surprising link to the rise of opioid abuse.

Medical Schools and Opioid Abuse

Researchers discovered that there is a strong link between medical schools and opioid prescriptions by general practitioners. Medical schools across the nation provide inadequate education about opioid prescriptions. Even Harvard, which is thought of as the gold standard for medical students, has fallen short in this area. Medical students report that they have had to supplement their learning in this area with information from outside sources.

The Princeton study also shows that doctors who graduated from lower tier medical schools wrote three times the amount of opioid prescriptions than their colleagues from Harvard. This is cited as the major reason why opioid use has quadrupled in the United States and the death rate from overdose has increased by 200 percent.

Is There a Solution?

The federal government has stepped in to this crisis to require medical schools to improve training in this area. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has recently developed guidelines that would greatly decrease opioid use and overdose.

If medical schools across the nation will voluntarily accept CDC guidelines and improve training, it will increase awareness for all physicians regardless of the school they choose. If it is not done voluntarily, then the government will need to take the necessary steps to make it mandatory.

With so many lives at stake, it is intolerable for physicians to continue to be a part of the problem. It’s time that medical schools and physicians need to be part of the solution.