Dramatic rise in opiate use worries health system, politicians

According to the report, the “defined daily dose” has risen by 30% between 2014 and 2016.

Drugs [illustrative] (photo credit: REUTERS)
Drugs [illustrative]
(photo credit: REUTERS)
There has been a sharp increase in the prescribed use of opiate drugs, according to a research report produced in the Knesset. Not only has the number of packages risen, but the dosage has also increased, it told the Anti-Drugs Committee.
Representatives of the health funds told committee chairman Tamar Zandberg on Tuesday that the number of patients without a serious disease such as cancer who take opiates has doubled in recent years. Opiates are alkaloid compounds naturally found in the opium poppy plant and include codeine, morphine and thebaine.
Zandberg maintained that the phenomenon is growing and “the Health Ministry is acting like an “ostrich and ignoring it. The problem must be recognized and dealt with.”
She called for the establishment of a computerized system so the ministry can supervise and follow up opiate use.
In addition, there are doctors who want to give patients medical cannabis for their pain instead of opiates, “so we have to allow them [more of it].”
According to the report, the “defined daily dose” has risen by 30% between 2014 and 2016. “It is very worrisome, as these drugs can cause harm and are addictive. They can also cause suffering under the mask of treating pain because they have many side effects, and detoxification is very difficult.”
Prof. Eyal Schwartzberg, chief pharmacist of the ministry, said: “It is no secret that opiates are addictive, but they also help treat pain. Without them, pain is treated with difficulty.
Inappropriate use can lead to addiction.” But he said he did not identify an increase in the number of patients. “We must continue to check. We are not running from responsibility.
We need more data to understand the phenomenon.”
Paula Rushka, head of the ministry’s addiction department, added that she was in favor of prevention before patients became addicted.
Patients who do not suffer from serious pain are asking their doctors for a prescription, said Dr. Leora Schechter of Maccabi Health Services. “We do our best to weed them out.
We understand the importance of the problem and have set up a clinic aimed solely at treating patients addicted to prescription drugs.”
Dr. Itai Besser of Clalit Health Services said that “normative patients stay at home, they develop emotional problems and I, at Soroka-University Medical Center, see these patients.
We have been trying to treat them for the last 18 months, but the main problem is lack of time and resources.”