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TUESDAY, Feb. 11, 2020 — In one other signal of simply how unhealthy the U.S. opioid abuse epidemic has develop into, a brand new examine finds members of the family usually steal painkillers from dying relations in hospice care.

In a survey of 371 hospices, 31% reported a minimum of one case during which medication had been taken from a affected person previously 90 days. The thieves had been most frequently relations.

Lead researcher John Cagle stated it is not clear if those that steal the medication are addicted, financially struggling, or each, although he assumes that’s the case. It doesn’t matter what, swiping medication that dying sufferers must handle their ache is merciless, he stated.

“The place drugs are being taken from sufferers, these sufferers are in all probability struggling,” stated Cagle, an affiliate professor of social work on the College of Maryland in Baltimore.

He added that the “drug diversion” drawback could also be larger than these numbers counsel.

The vast majority of reported thefts occurred in small amenities, and when the affected person was receiving in-home hospice care, the researchers discovered.

Essentially the most frequent culprits had been the primary household caregiver (39%), one other relative (38%) or sufferers (34%), the findings confirmed.

Hospices are taking steps to curb drug diversion, Cagle stated. They’re storing drugs in lockboxes, counting capsules and discovering different methods to observe opioid use.

However Cagle fears that the thefts will result in a crackdown on prescribing opioids to dying sufferers who want them.

“Maybe regulators and policymakers will overreact and restrict opioid prescribing for hospice suppliers, and that is a serious concern as a result of it will probably tie the fingers of suppliers who’re hoping to alleviate struggling,” he stated.

Hospice suppliers more and more share that concern, the researchers stated.

Jane Richter is director of coverage analysis and evaluation on the Heart on Habit in New York Metropolis. She stated, “The findings from this evaluation spotlight the necessity for a extra complete method to opioid use dysfunction, and the necessity for prevention and therapy to be built-in into all facets of well being care, together with hospices, nursing properties, hospitals and different medical amenities.”

Regardless of efforts to rein within the opioid epidemic and up to date reductions in prescription drug misuse, drug diversion continues to be widespread, she stated.

“Diversion thrives in settings the place prevention and therapy are inadequate or missing,” Richter added.

The burden of caring for a beloved one on the finish of life can create a state of affairs ripe for drug abuse, she advised.

Relations of hospice sufferers are sometimes beneath large stress and wish a broad vary of helps to cope with the emotional, bodily and monetary toll of caring for a beloved one nearing the tip of life, Richter identified. For folks prone to drug abuse, easy accessibility to prescription opioids within the absence of different methods of relieving stress is a recipe for diversion and habit, she added.

Richter stated lowering diversion would require a two-pronged method.

“First, lowering entry to prescription drugs by not overprescribing and thoroughly accounting for treatment that was prescribed; and two, lowering demand for the prescribed treatment by addressing substance use threat in sufferers and households, and connecting these with substance use problems to efficient therapy,” Richter stated.

The report was revealed Feb. 11 within the Journal of the American Medical Affiliation.

Extra info

RTI Worldwide has extra on the opioid disaster and hospices.

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Posted: February 2020