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Researchers: Prescription Opioid Treatment Out of Reach

4,000 Ohioans died from drug overdoses in 2015. (Klesta/Flickr)
4,000 Ohioans died from drug overdoses in 2015. (Klesta/Flickr)
August 16, 2017

COLUMBUS, Ohio - The overdose of painkillers kills more than 60 Americans every day, and between 2005 and 2014 there was a 99 percent increase in the number of people going to an emergency room because of it. But according to the American Psychological Association, doctors have been reluctant to prescribe treatment designed to prevent addiction.

Dr. Andrew Huhn, a post-doctorate fellow at Johns Hopkins University's School of Medicine, said Suboxone was approved for the treatment of opioid-use disorder in 2002, but research by the APA found many doctors are not willing to increase their use of it.

"It reduces the risk of relapse to illicit opioids, and it also has been shown to reduce the incidence of overdose death," he said. "It can be a treatment that's used in the short term; it can be a treatment that's used long term."

More than 4,000 Ohioans died from drug overdoses last year, 1,800 of those from prescription opioid overdose deaths, the highest number among states.

Methadone is the other drug prescribed for opioid addiction, but many in the regulatory and law-enforcement communities are concerned that both it and Suboxone are being abused at high rates. According to APA research, doctors are concerned about the number of patients requesting treatment for painkiller abuse, and many don't have the time to take on new patients. Huhn said it's a crisis that keeps getting worse every year, adding that it's destroying lives.

"Addiction or opioid-use disorder is a chronic disease, so just like diabetes or asthma, it's not going to go away," he said. "If you have a severe opioid-use disorder, it needs to be treated like a chronic disease."

Government data published earlier this year estimated that 1.27 million people were hospitalized or sought help at an emergency room for opioid-related issues in 2014.

Research is online at and Ohio data is at

This collaboration is produced in association with Media in the Public Interest and funded by the George Gund Foundation.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH