Many States Enacting Opioid Prescribing Guidelines In Effort To Curb Epidemic
As the time of this writing, at least 17 states have enacted regulations to reduce the number of opioid painkillers that health care providers can prescribe. While many believe this trend may help curb the opioid epidemic, it has already raised some red flags, especially among physicians and their patients.
States such as Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Ohio have passed laws that limit the duration of first-time painkiller prescriptions to 5-7 days. Others are passed limitations on dosages.
Many of these measure come in the footfalls of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommended opioid prescribing guidelines released last year. They stated that prescriptions for acute pain shouldn’t last longer than seven days, and that opioids should not be used for chronic pain, except in extreme cases such as cancer and palliative care.
According to the CDC, patients who take opioids for a long duration are more likely to end up dependent upon them. Addiction then increases the risk of overdose. In 2015, more than 33,000 people died from overdoses related to prescription or illicit opioids. Indeed, 3 out of 4 new heroin users report first becoming addicted to prescription painkillers before initiating their habit.
But some doctors worry that laws limiting opioid prescriptions to seven days or less are too prohibitive, and are wary of treating pain patients as they try to understand and work with the new laws. And there is also the general feeling that doctors are to blame for the whole epidemic due to over-prescribing, while many feel that they were doing the best they could for their patients.
On the other hand, some doctors are relieved that the new laws are in place, because it takes responsibility of out their hands when patients seek longer courses of the drugs. That is, when patients ask for more drugs, they can politely refuse, lest they break the law and face penalties.
Dr. Patrice Harris, chairwoman of the American Medical Association’s committee on opioid abuse:
“Arbitrary pill limits or dosage limits are not the way to go. They are one-size-fits-all, blunt approaches.”
~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology