The Ohio Health Issues Poll is conducted every year to learn more about the health opinions, behaviors and status of Ohio adults. In 2018, OHIP asked Ohio adults several questions about their experiences receiving prescription pain relievers over the past five years.
OHIP asked, “During the past five years has a doctor, dentist or other medical professional prescribed a pain reliever for you that you could not purchase ‘over the counter’ such as OxyContin, Vicodin, Percocet or codeine?”
About 3 in 10 Ohio adults (29%) have been prescribed a pain reliever in the past five years. Overall, Ohio adults who rate their health as fair/poor (43%) are more likely than those who rate their health as good or very good/excellent (25%) to be prescribed a pain reliever. There is no significant difference in whether a person received a pain reliever prescription based on their income.
OHIP then asked the 3 in 10 Ohio adults who said they had been prescribed a pain reliever in the past five years, “Thinking about the most recent time a doctor, dentist or other medical professional prescribed a pain reliever for you, did you feel they prescribed more pills than you needed to control your pain, less pills than you needed to control your pain or the right amount of pills you needed to control your pain?”
About 7 in 10 Ohio adults (69%) who reported being prescribed a pain reliever felt they had been prescribed the right amount of pills. About 1 in 10 (12%) felt a medical professional prescribed more pills than needed to control their pain. Two in 10 (18%) felt they had been prescribed fewer pills than needed to control their pain.
OHIP also asked the 29% of Ohio adults who reported being prescribed a pain reliever in the past five years, “What type of medical professional prescribed the pain reliever for you?” Ohio adults who were prescribed a pain reliever most frequently reported receiving it from a surgeon (39%), followed by a primary care doctor (25%), some other medical professional (17%), a dentist (10%) and a doctor in an emergency room (9%). (See graph) This reflects trends seen in data collected by the Ohio Automated Rx Reporting System.
We know that some people who are addicted to opioids began their use with a valid prescription. We also know that some people receive more medication than they need to manage their pain, either because of a larger dosage or a prescription for more days than needed. Research shows that even relatively low doses of opioids carry risk of overdose, and that the risk increases as the amount of medication increases.1
Congress and state legislatures have made many changes recently to reduce the use of opioids. These include changing prescribing practices to limit the number of pills given in each prescription and to create extra safeguards for patients. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also issued prescribing guidelines to encourage reducing pain reliever prescriptions. Most of this work has focused on medical prescribers. According to state tracking, the number of opioid prescriptions dispensed since 2012 in Ohio has dropped annually.2 The questions asked by OHIP allow us to hear experiences with prescribed pain prescriptions from a consumer perspective.
1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Aug. 27, 2017). CDC Guideline for Prescribing Opioids for Chronic Pain. Retrieved Oct. 15, 2018, from
2. Ohio Automated Rx Reporting System. (2018). State Statistics. Retrieved Oct. 11, 2018, from https://www.ohiopmp.gov/State.aspx.
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