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Report: Alabama opioid prescriptions continue to fall, fentanyl use rises

As the opioid crisis continues to spawn death and destruction throughout the nation, Alabama physicians are taking action to combat the calamity in the Yellowhammer State.

Opioid prescriptions in Alabama have declined for the eighth consecutive year, according to a report released Thursday by the American Medical Association.

Findings of the report as follows:

  • Opioid prescriptions in Alabama decreased 41.6% from 2012-2021. From 2020-2021, opioid prescriptions in the state declined 1.6%.
  • The dosage strength of opioid prescriptions fell 52.7% from 2012-2021 and dropped 6.5% between 2020-2021.
  • Prescriptions of naloxone to treat patients at risk of an opioid overdose rose 851% between 2012-2021 and 35.4% from 2020-2021.

Yellowhammer News with Mark Jackson, Medical Association of the State of Alabama executive director, who detailed his profession’s efforts to combat opioid misuse.

“We’re making progress. We’re not there yet,” said Jackson. “We had a long way to go when we started this, but we are chipping away at it and getting the number of opioid prescriptions down to the appropriate levels. It’s an ongoing process.”

Jackson pointed to the “coordinated” effort among Alabama physicians to drive down the number of opioid prescriptions. The campaign included a focus on the state’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, which compiles patients’ opioid prescription-related data.

As required by law under an act of the Alabama Legislature, prescribers that dispense opioids are mandated to report the information for opioid tracking purposes in an effort to combat abuse.

The program’s database was accessed 5.5 million times last year, according to the report, which represents a 3% increase from 2020.

RELATED: Alabama among nation’s hardest hit states of deadly opioid epidemic

ALSO RELATED: Alabama to receive $276M in settlements with opioid manufacturers, distributor

The Medical Association of the State of Alabama became one of the first entities in the nation to offer a continuing education course for physicians to provide instruction for safe opioid prescribing practices.

Since 2009, the association said in a news release, more than 8,000 prescribers in Alabama have completed the course.

While the state has made strides in curbing opioid prescriptions, illicit fentanyl use remains a major issue, according to Dr. Julia Boothe, president of the Medical Association of the State of Alabama.

“Alabama physicians are advancing the fight against the opioid crisis by continuing to reduce the number and potency of prescribed opioids in our state, and by furthering our education on opioids,” said Boothe. “While we are making good progress in these areas under a physician’s control, Alabama is in a worsening overdose epidemic due primarily to illicitly manufactured fentanyl, which is found in more than 75 percent of counterfeit pills and other substances. No community is safe from this poison.”

The association advised that overdose deaths in Alabama rose from 453 to 1,069 during the timeframe of 2020-2021, which represents a 135.9% increase.

Dr. Bobby Mukkamala, chair of the American Medical Association Substance Use and Pain Care Task Force, said that fentanyl is “supercharging” the national crisis.

“What is becoming painfully evident is that there are limits to what physicians can do,” said Mukkamala. “We have dramatically increased training and changed our prescribing habits, reducing the number of opioids prescribed while increasing access to naloxone, buprenorphine and methadone. But illicitly manufactured fentanyl is supercharging this epidemic.”

Dylan Smith is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @DylanSmithAL

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