UDT is Essential to Medical Care
Primary care and family practice physicians are at the forefront of providing diverse patient populations with quality medical care that improves lives. Chronic pain is one of the leading reasons why patients visit their PCP or family doctor—who understands that uncontrolled chronic pain causes unnecessary suffering and can lead to depression. While treatment of chronic pain has improved, the number of opioid prescriptions written has sharply increased. Opioid availability has led to its misuse, abuse, and diversion resulting in higher rates of addiction and overdose deaths. Of course, that is not to say that all patients who take prescription opioid drugs will misuse or abuse their medication.
“We were taught that under-treatment of pain was epidemic and opioids were safe and effective in helping manage this problem. We now face an epidemic of prescription drug abuse.”
Facts About Prescription Drug Abuse
• More than 36,000 people died of drug overdoses in 2008, and the majority of those deaths were caused by prescription drugs.
• Nearly 3 out of 4 drug overdoses are caused by opioids.
• Approximately, 7 million people used psychotherapeutic drugs non-medically in 2010, and more than 5 million of them abused pain relievers.
• Prescription medications are one of the most common types of drugs abused by adolescents.
Why Test: The Scope of the Problem
Difficult to Know Who is at Risk
High patient volume and a short supply of time and resources makes adding another medical protocol into practice seem impossible. Hesitation about implementing regular urine drug testing (UDT) is understandable. While many physicians have known their patients for years, behavioral observation alone missed detecting patients at risk for or with problems.
The outcomes of a study conducted by Nathaniel Katz, MD showed behavioral monitoring (eg, observation) only detected 32% of problem patients whereas UDT identified 49% of those problem patients. Combining behavioral observation with a UDT protocol can help detect more patients at risk for prescription drug misuse, abuse and diversion.
Urine drug testing is essential to protect patients, the physician’s practice, and the public. It is a valuable tool to help frontline physicians detect and document noncompliance and at-risk patients, whether they exhibit no signs of misuse (abuse or addiction), or when aberrant behavior is observed or suspected.