California lawmaker proposes bill limiting opioid prescriptions

California lawmaker proposes bill limiting opioid prescriptions

In a bid to address the opioid crisis in the state, California State Assembly member Freddie Rodriguez has proposed a severe cut on the number of prescription opioids for a patient. The 52-year-old Democrat from Pomona has introduced bill AB 1998 to prevent opioid abuse. The bill proposes to limit prescriptions for highly addictive drugs to a maximum of three days.

The proposed bill would require a doctor to justify a patient’s opioid dose if it remains the same even by the third refill. The legislation, however, allows room for some exceptions, including for patients battling cancer or chronic pain. Besides, the bill will also make it mandatory for the practitioner to inform the patient of addiction risks before prescribing an opioid.

According to Rodriguez, some doctors prescribe painkillers “like candy.” “We don’t want to give it out just to give it out, and there’s no accountability there…Nobody’s really following up on why that’s necessary,” Rodriguez said.

However, Rodriguez faces resistance from some opponents of the bill who argue that most of the opioid overdose fatalities result from heroin and illegal fentanyl use and rationing the prescription drugs would force more users to turn to the black market to meet their requirement. As per opponents, AB 1998 might end up punishing patients who actually need opioid painkillers.

Irresponsible prescribing fuels opioid epidemic

More than 4 percent people aged 12 or older, amounting to 11.8 million, in the U.S. misused opioids in the past year, revealed the 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). Surprisingly, 53 percent opioid misusers in 2016 got their last dose of painkillers from a friend or relative, while 35.4 percent procured them the last time through a doctor’s prescription. Curbing the easy availability can help prevent opioid misuse. Therefore, it is important to make people aware of safe disposal and storage methods to prevent opioid diversion. For those who are already addicted to it, treatment can help.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), prescription opioid-related overdoses have been a major driving factor for increasing deaths involving addiction over the past 15 years. The amount of prescription opioids sold to hospitals, pharmacies and doctors’ offices have increased by four times between 1999 and 2014. However, the amount of pain reported by Americans is still the same, which represents high rates of abuse/misuse of prescription opioids.

Treatment for opioid addiction

Regulating the opioid prescription practices can improve patients’ access to more effective and safer chronic pain treatment while minimizing the incidents of overdose. Medication-assisted therapy (MAT) is an effective therapeutic approach to address opioid use disorder (OUD). It integrates the use of medications like buprenorphine, methadone or naltrexone, along with behavioral and counseling therapies to derive successful treatment outcome.

In addition, there is a need to increase access to and use of naloxone, a life-saving drug administered in emergency to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. Authorities should expand training on administering naloxone, which is not addictive, as it can help emergency medical service staff deal with opioid overdose cases, thereby saving more lives.

Surveys show that people addicted to opioids usually indulge in illegal activities to feed their addiction, and ultimately land themselves in prison. In recent times, the voice against incarceration in such cases has also become louder. Mental health experts as well as some legislators are advocating for treatment of inmates serving jail for substance abuse in order to save them from the vicious cycle of drugs and punishment. Sovereign Health’s Court Services Division helps such people get permission to attend a drug rehab program in lieu of a jail term. We try to convince the judge and the attorney to trade imprisonment with mental rehab care. To know about and/or avail our services, you can contact us at our 24/7 helpline number 866-439-7698 or chat online.

February 9, 2018

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