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Opioid prescribing drops for the first time in two decades

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – There is a decline in the amount of opioid pain pills prescribed in about two decades.  A study published by IMS Health points to more oversight and tougher enforcement as a couple of the contributing factors.

However, patients like Fern Decker, who legitimately need pain medication, are having a difficult time obtaining it.

“I can’t even walk a half a block and I can’t even lift pots and pans,” said Decker.

Decker describes her pain in vivid detail.

“It feels like you are getting stabbed in the back when I turn certain ways or walk,” said Decker.

She recently had back surgery and was initially prescribed 15 milligrams of the opioid Oxycontin.  Despite following her doctor’s orders and not abusing her prescription, her dosage was cut to five milligrams.  Decker is now in constant pain and has no way of reliving it.

“As my doctor put it, the pendulum has swung back,” said Decker.

That pendulum shows a shift in opioid prescribing.

“We still have a problem of people starting off with prescriptions and ending up on heroin,” said addictions counselor Scott Watson with Heartland Intervention.

Watson says the decrease can be credited to tighter prescribing guidelines introduced in 2014 and countless examples of doctors behaving badly, like William Hedrick, a former central Indiana pain doctor linked to several overdose deaths of his patients.

“There is a small population that is not able to get the pain medication they want and need,” said Watson.

Watson is talking about people like Decker.  Doctors have grown so afraid of law enforcement that they are hesitant to prescribe opioids. Even those who are in desperate need of pain pills are being overlooked.

“The government has got to lighten up for people like me that really need the pain medication,” said Decker.

While opioid prescribing has declined, the same study shows that overdose deaths have not declined.

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