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Doctors are being more careful on opioid prescriptions

Data: American Medical Association. Get the data; Cartogram: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Doctors are increasingly using prescription drug monitoring programs — databases that track patients' drug history — in an effort to cut down on inappropriate opioid prescriptions. This corresponded with a 9% drop in opioid prescriptions between 2016 and 2017, according to new data from the American Medical Association.

What's next: The AMA says policymakers need to focus next on the barriers to treatment that people struggling with opioid addiction still face, including insurance coverage issues.

  • "Treatment is key ... on average, 9 out of 10 patients who want access to medication assisted treatment can't get that medication assisted treatment," said Patrice Harris of the AMA's opioid task force.

Other key stats from the AMA's report:

  • The number of opioid prescriptions decreased by 22% between 2013 and 2017.
  • Prescriptions for naloxone – which is used for opioid overdose reversal — more than doubled in 2017 and are still on the rise in 2018.
  • Over the past year, there's been a 42% increase in the number of providers certified to use buprenorphine to treat opioid use disorders.

Go deeper: The rise of newer, deadlier opioids; More people are blaming the opioid crisis on drug companies