As of the first of the month, a new law in Nevada took effect – a multifaceted piece of legislation designed to begin the process of reducing the number of lives lost to opiate overdose across the state by targeting where many opiate addictions begin: the doctor’s office. Called Assembly Bill 474 or the Controlled Substance Abuse Prevention Act, the new law comes with a great many changes to what and how a doctor conducts business with a patient who is in need of treatment for pain, whether acute or chronic.
Here’s what you can expect if you, or a loved one, are headed to the doctor for pain management care.
Lots of Information
Doctors will be required to make sure that their patients are well aware of all that is involved in taking prescription painkillers. They will be expected to:
- Limit prescriptions to manage acute pain to no more than 14 days.
- Write out a pain management contract that both patient and prescriber must sign if pain management medication is prescribed for more than 30 days.
- Document the reasoning for ongoing prescriptions for addictive painkillers for a year or longer.
- Inform patients of the risks related to taking any amount of prescription painkillers for any length of time.
- Ensure that all other avenues of treatment outside of medication have been exhausted before writing the first script and continually support holistic treatment as a mainstay in ongoing pain management.
- Fully inform patients regarding safe storage of medications, safe disposal of medications, and how to process refills if needed.
- Make sure that patients and caregivers are aware of the need to have naloxone available if appropriate and how to identify potential signs of painkiller abuse or addiction.
Though the opiate epidemic and the high rate of drug overdoses in the state of Nevada are not entirely the fault of the medical establishment, it is true that the overprescription of painkillers and lack of follow-up care have significantly contributed to the development of opiate addiction among patients and their families. It is not just the individual in treatment who may use prescribed painkillers nonmedically; their loved ones may find leftover pills or unmonitored pills in the medicine cabinet and abuse them. The new law seeks to begin to remedy some of these issues.
More Than One Plan of Attack Is Needed
It is sound and efficient to go to the potential source of the problem in order to effect positive change going forward. It is likely that the new law will do a great deal to not only help people avoid the onset of an opiate use disorder but also to deter those who might seek to sustain their addiction by pill-seeking at the doctor’s office.
Though they may be limited in their ability to sustain their addiction through the medical establishment, this means that they will likely turn to the black market where heroin and other opiate drugs are cheaper and easier to come by. Painkillers are deadly, and heroin and other street drugs are no less so. Especially now with the addition of fentanyl to bags of heroin, cocaine, and even counterfeit pills sold on the street, there is an increased risk of overdose. Fentanyl is almost never prescribed from a doctor’s office, and even when it is, the medical-grade fentanyl is very different from the black-market fentanyl that makes its way into street drugs. A very small amount of the potent drug can be deadly, and it is impossible to know in advance if the drug purchased contains fentanyl.
There are thousands of people in Las Vegas and across the state who are already living with a full-blown opiate addiction.
For this reason, it is essential that new laws be developed that address the opiate use disorder problem from multiple angles. Increased access to naloxone for police officers and even business community owners can help to ensure that people in crisis survive a catastrophic overdose and live another day so they might connect with treatment.
Increased access to treatment is also an imperative if we are going to turn the tide of opiate overdose and addiction. The easier it is to find and enroll in a comprehensive drug addiction treatment program, the sooner families who are struggling with addiction will be able to buffer themselves from the risk of overdose.
Is 2018 the year you take action against addiction in your life, your family, and your community?