In Canada, where prescription drug addiction is rampant, a real-time prescription drug monitoring database in the province of British Columbia appears to be having a positive impact on abuse there, according to a new study published in the journal of the Canadian Medical Association. The implementation of a centralized prescription network was associated with a “dramatic” reduction in inappropriate prescriptions for opioids and benzodiazepines, the authors of the study said. Inappropriate opioid prescriptions to people on social assistance dropped from 3.2 percent to 2.1 percent after the new system, called PharmaNet, was introduced in 1995. Meanwhile, suspicious prescriptions of benzodiazepines, which exacerbate the side effects of opioids, fell from 1.2 percent to 0.71 percent.
Canadians are the second-largest consumers of prescription narcotics and other controlled substances per capita in the world, according to the International Narcotics Control Board. Yet the country lacks a national prescription drug tracking system, making it difficult to monitor cases of addiction and related deaths.
This recent editorial in the New York Times argues that doctors have contributed to the growing epidemic of overdose deaths and addiction by overprescribing opioids, mostly due to a desire to treat pain more compassionately.