How the fight against opioids has changed over the years

Local News

CLEARFIELD COUNTY, Pa. (WTAJ) – Opioid abuse in Pennsylvania has been a problem for many decades. In recent years, the number of opioids prescribed has dropped steadily, showing positive signs in the fight against addiction. Over the past decade, there’s been an almost 40% drop in the number of opioid prescriptions dispensed annually. The drop has been a welcoming sight to medical professionals, who battle with the issue of how much is too much each day.

“Finding the balance between need and overprescribing,” said Thomas E. Bowser, the owner of Shankels Pharmacy in DuBois.

In 2010, the dispensing rate was more than 83 out of 100 people. In 2020, it was down to just over 46.

“Doctors are more conservative in their prescribing practices now. I think part of that is a good thing, I think it had gotten a little too little liberal,” Bowser said.

One of the major factors in the drop-in percentage is prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMP). It’s a database that allows pharmacies to track drugs that have been prescribed.

“Virtually eliminated doctor shopping because all of the prescriptions get reported to a database, which we check,” Bowser said.

A problem Susan Ford, the executive director of the Clearfield Jefferson Drug and Alcohol Commission (CJDAC) said was heightened in rural central Pennsylvania areas.

“People will try to hit the same spot three times and get the same medication,” Ford said.

In central Pa, an area without the many communication systems like Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, or Harrisburg, there was no prior way to track the data between pharmacies. But thanks to PDMP’s, there now is. And although there were over 5,000 overdoses in Pennsylvania in 2020, the funding and initiatives that have been put in place, like the Law Enforcement Treatment Initiative, and the Opioid Command Center, now re-branded as the Interagency Substance Use Response Team, to focus on more than just opioid addiction, leads Ford to believe things are moving in the right direction.

“We’ve seen a shift in communication at the state level between departments which I think has helped a lot,” Ford said.

A nationwide billion-dollar opioid settlement against four major drug providers in the U.S. was recently signed on by each of the 10 counties in our area. The settlement will bring more than $1billion dollars into Pennsylvania as early as next year.

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