Opioid overdose deaths, which reached 47,600 across the nation in 2017, continue to ravage many parts of the country. The use of opiate drugs continues to skyrocket; however, healthcare and law enforcement agencies aim to stem the opioid crisis by finding alternatives to pain medication, expand treatment and stop overdose deaths. So far, there are only patchwork solutions, but they show promise.
Legislation to fight opioid abuse
As of October 2018, at least 33 states have enacted legislation related to opioid prescription limits. Different communities around the nation are taking different approaches to stem the tide of addictive painkillers.
Last July, Florida lawmakers enacted stiffer rules governing prescriptions, and allocated $60 million toward treatment resources and a wider availability of the opioid antidote naloxone.
In Texas, prescriptions now contain advanced security features to prevent fraud during the filling process. As of June 1, 2019, doctors will have to order new prescription forms and join the states’ prescription monitoring program (PMP), known as PMP Aware. This allows physicians to check a patient’s prescription history for information related to drug abuse and doctor shopping.
In Ohio, the Cincinnati area has cut opioid deaths by over 30 percent in six months since widely handing out Narcan, a nasal spray form of the opioid antidote Naloxone, to the public.
While naloxone remains controversial – it doesn’t prevent addiction – its use has increased around the nation. In Burlington, Vermont, the mayor and police chief have teamed up to arm law enforcement, emergency workers and the public with the antidote. The state is also focusing on long-term treatment, as are others.
In Rhode Island, a program providing recently released inmates with medication-assisted treatment has cut overdose deaths by more than 60 percent.
Finally, the federal government has taken steps to fight the opioid crisis. The SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act, passed Oct. 3, 2018, took effect Jan. 1. Among other measures, it creates grants for more addiction recovery centers, expands naloxone access, and focuses on best practices in prescribing.
While it’s too early to tell which approach will work, Buprenorphine Treatment Centers, Inc., primary focus is providing medically prescribed Buprenorphine (Subutex and Suboxone) to eliminate cravings and the symptoms of withdrawal and thereby allowing our patients to lead normal lives.