One previous study found that drug-monitoring programs help prevent 10 opioid-overdose deaths a day in the U.S., yet improvements could save another two people a day. States with the most robust programs—ones that tracked a greater number of potentially addictive medications and updated their databases at least weekly—saw the biggest drops in overdose deaths, the previous study showed.
Public health advocates worry that an unintended consequence of drug-monitoring programs could be that opioid users would seek drugs illegally and turn to heroin, the authors write. But the current study found that PDMPs did not lead to an increase in people starting to use heroin.
Lead author Mir M. Ali, a health economist at SAMHSA, says in a phone interview he found it “reassuring” that drug-monitoring programs were not responsible for opioid users substituting heroin.
“In any situation where you’re limiting supply, people might begin to substitute,” adds Patrick. “What we really need to do is focus on how we get control of the prescription opioid epidemic.”
- Ali MM, Dowd WN, Classen T, et al. Prescription drug monitoring programs, nonmedical use of prescription drugs, and heroin use: Evidence from the National Survey of Drug Use and Health. Addict Behav. 2017 Jan 6;69:65–77. doi: 10.1016/j.addbeh.2017.01.011. [Epub ahead of print]