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Doctors from lower ranked medical schools are big contributors to the opioid crisis: Study

(AP Photo)

A new study by the National Bureau of Economic Research found graduates of lower ranked medical schools prescribe opioids at an extremely higher rate than those who attended top medical programs.

The study compared doctors’ prescription habits with medical school rankings from US News and World Report. Using data from 2006 to 2014, researchers concluded that physicians who attended medical schools that were listed lower on the rankings prescribe opioids more than those who went to top-ranked medical schools.

Between 2000 and 2014, drug overdoses from opioids rose 200 percent. Prescribers have faced widespread criticism by experts who say physicians bear a lot of the responsibility for the substance abuse crisis in America. The number of opioids prescribed and opioid overdoses have both quadrupled since 1999.

The report found general practitioners prescribe almost 50 percent of all opiates. In 2014 alone, the average practitioner wrote 480 opioid prescriptions. When comparing the general practitioner’s background, the research concluded that those who attended lower ranked US medical schools prescribed nearly three times more opioids per year than doctors who attended highly ranked medical schools. Graduates from Harvard write an average of 180 opioid prescriptions, considerably less than those in the lowest ranked universities who write almost 550 opioid prescriptions a year.

This is one of the first studies to use ranked education and compare it with opioid prescriptions. The findings strongly suggest that doctors are not receiving the same amount of training when it comes to these highly addictive drugs.

Doctors are commonly referred to as the ‘gatekeepers’ to the US. substance abuse crisis. On Tuesday, President Trump had a meeting with top administration officials to discuss the opioid epidemic. This session came following the Opioid Crisis Commissioners’ interim report that recommended the president declare a state of emergency.

“We have an enormous problem that is often not beginning on street corners; it is starting in doctor’s offices and hospitals in every state in our nation,” the commissioner’s report said.

Overprescribing is one of the commission’s top concerns. Currently, the number of opioids in American households today is enough to keep the entire country medicated around the clock for three weeks. Among many recommendations to the president, the commissioners suggested that prescribers receive mandatory opioid training, which is not currently in place. The interim report said that only 20 percent of opioid prescribers have ever been trained on how to prescribe them.


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