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Efforts to Control the Problem of Pain Killers

As reported by The New York Times, Washington State is the first of hopefully many that is making a sweeping attempt to control the abuse of pain killers. The state government is developing regulations meant to stop doctors from prescribing higher doses of powerful painkillers for patients who are not benefiting from them.

Among other regulations, Washington would be the first state to require doctors to refer patients on escalating doses of pain killers for evaluation by a third party if they are not improving. This comes as a response to the national epidemic of excessive use of pain killers such as OxyContin, fentanyl and methadone that has resulted in abuse as well as fatalities due to overdose.

Pain specialists in Washington State say this move is essential in light of doctors giving high daily dosages of powerful and dangerous drugs for ailments like back pain for a long period of time without evidence that the drugs are benefiting the patient.

On a national scale, prescription drug overdoses are the second-leading cause of accidental death behind car accidents, and in some states, they are the leading cause of death, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Washington State’s efforts reflect a growing view that current procedures of prescribing and utilizing pain medications must change. With the exception of cancer and end-of-life patients, many question just how beneficial pain medications are for most patients. In fact increasing evidence from studies, including one from Washington State, have found that many patients suffer significant side effects from pain medication including lethargy, increased sensitivity to pain, potentially fatal overdoses, and the severely increased risk of addiction.

The new regulations would require a doctor to refer patients to a pain specialist for review when their daily dosage increases to a specific level and no improvement is shown. The specialist will determine the next step for the patient, such as reducing pain medication, physical therapy, or in instances of substance abuse, helping patients find necessary treatment.


  1. Way to go Washington State! One step in the right direction! Let’s just hope these docs don’t team of with referring docs and become team dealers!

    • You’re so right, OnePillAwayfromChaos!


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