• Patrick Bailey

What are Opioid Tracking Databases and Have They Been Successful?

What Are Opioid Tracking Databases and Have They Been Successful?


Created in an effort to mitigate the growth of opioid addiction within the country, opioid tracking databases, also known as prescription drug monitoring programs, have been used by almost every state in the US. So what are these medicinal tracking systems, and how have they affected the opioid epidemic in America?

On Opioid Addiction

Opioid addiction is known to be a chronic, life-threatening brain disease. While opioids are commonly prescribed in the form of pain medication, their addictive properties make them a commonly misused and abused drug. Commonly prescribed opioids include oxycodone, fentanyl, methadone, hydrocodone, codeine, morphine, oxymorphone, and buprenorphine. These medications can be used to relieve severe chronic pain, though the medications are often abused due to the effect they have on the central nervous system, producing feelings of pleasure and euphoria. Opioid abuse occurs when opioids are no longer needed for pain management, but the urge to use them remains. Symptoms of opioid abuse include changes to appetite, mood, sleep patterns, and overall hygiene. Loss of interest in daily activities and problems with work or school are also signs of addiction. Opioid overdoses do occur with severe cases of addiction.

Opioids change the way the brain works, making the body dependent on the drug. If opioids are not consumed, withdrawals will begin to take place. Symptoms of withdrawal can last days to over a week. Symptoms include restlessness, muscle aches, anxiety, inability to sleep, sweating, cramping, nausea and vomiting, and in severe cases seizures are possible. Other withdrawal symptoms are possible, therefore detoxification should always take place under the supervision of a medical professional.

What Are Opioid Tracking Databases?

What Are Opioid Tracking Databases?

Opioid tracking databases are designed to be used by prescribing physicians. These databases help doctors avoid over-prescribing medications as well as limit the amount of 'doctor shopping' a person addicted to opioids can do. Doctor shopping involves seeing multiple physicians for the same problem in an effort to obtain multiple prescriptions for medications like opioids.

What Is the Purpose of Opioid Tracking Databases?

The purpose of opioid tracking databases is to reduce the amount of opioid abuse taking place throughout the country. Databases are tools for physicians who prescribe their patients opioids, allowing them to see any current prescriptions or past history with opioid prescriptions. Once physicians are better informed on their patient's prescription history, they can make the decision to prescribe opioids or not.

Who Has Access to Opioid Tracking Databases?

Opioid Tracking Databases are able to be accessed by prescribing physicians. When writing a prescription for opioids, a physician can look at the tracking database to see any previous or current opioid prescriptions. Physicians are also able to delegate access to other trusted medical professionals, such as nurse practitioners.

Why Are Opioid Tracking Databases Necessary?

Opioid tracking databases are needed in order to reduce opioid abuse by patients. Physicians are able to view the current prescriptions being taken by patients as well as their prescription history, giving doctors a better idea as to the patient's history with any prescription opioid use. These databases also reduce 'doctor shopping' where patients visit multiple doctors to get several prescriptions for opioids at one time.

Advantages of Opioid Tracking Databases

There are a number of advantages to using opioid tracking databases. First, databases are readily available to physicians over the internet, meaning calls to other practitioners or offices are unnecessary. Doctors are also able to deny prescriptions to those patients who they discover have a history of doctor shopping or opioid abuse, stopping that person from obtaining the drugs they were seeking.

Have Opioid Tracking Databases Been Successful?

There is a question as to whether or not opioid tracking databases have been successful, and the results are mixed. On one hand, the creation of opioid tracking databases has decreased the number of opioid prescriptions being written throughout the US. Because of opioid tracking databases, physicians are also able to intervene earlier in the patient's addiction, preventing them from doctor shopping and obtaining multiple prescriptions. In addition, it appears that opioid tracking databases have had an effect on overdoses, lowering that number throughout the United States.

However, there is a flaw when it comes to opioid tracking databases. When patients are denied prescriptions for the substances they abuse, there is always a chance they will seek out that drug or something similar on the streets. In the case of opioids, many people who are denied prescriptions at their physician's office could end up addicted to a street substance, such as heroin.


While medical tracking databases do seem to be helping opioid abuse rates, there is work that needs to be done before these systems can be considered an all-out success.

To Conclude

Opioid tracking databases are used throughout the United States. Physicians can use these tools when determining the correct prescription to provide their patients. While these systems may require changes down the road, there is evidence that they help lower drug abuse rates when used properly.












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