Approximately 3,500; That’s how many people died last year from an opioid-related overdose in the state of Pennsylvania. As every social class, race and ethnicity is affected by the opioid addiction crisis, new steps have been taken to battle against the rising epidemic.
On Wednesday of last week, Governor Tom Wolf signed five new pieces of legislation into effect, which are all based upon better practice in prescribing opioids, benzodiazepines and other addictive medication. The signing of these new laws comes only 5 weeks after Governor Wolf made a call to action to the General Assembly, urging them to take the necessary steps to combat opioid addiction.
During that address, the Governor said, “It is up to us to tackle the opioid crisis and give Pennsylvania the prosperous, healthy, and safe future we know it deserves. I look forward to a productive session and real progress toward stopping the opioid epidemic. Let us, here in Pennsylvania, lead the nation in fighting this crisis.” It is safe to say, based on Wednesday’s proceedings, that both the state House and Senate heard the Governor’s plea for immediate action.
These laws will mandate new regulations as well as amend prior bills. As countless individuals of the commonwealth continue to be confronted by the tragedy that is the opioid addiction crisis, our lawmakers aim to address what seems to be the starting point for many addicts. Many times, opioid addiction doesn’t begin with a needle and heroin, rather it often starts in a doctor’s office. Specifically, 8 out of every 10 heroin addicts start with abusing prescription pills in adolescence, and eventually graduate to more illicit and stronger alternatives, due to price and euphoric effect.
Teens get their hands on prescription opioids in a variety of ways, including legal prescriptions, parents’ medicine cabinets, friends at school, and on the street. That is why the passage of these new bills is most important at this time. Not only will they limit prescriptions that are written, especially for teens, they will also regulate drop-off locations for unused and/or expired medications. Senator John Wozniak from Cambria County said during the bill signing, “Please, for the sake of your children and your grandchildren, if you have prescription medicine that you’re not using, get rid of it.”
Some will argue that harsher restrictions on opioids will only cause an influx in heroin abuse and the abuse of other illicit substances. As this may be so, what’s the better option? As earlier stated, opioid medications are basically the gateway drug to heroin. Wouldn’t it be better to eliminate the original source and provide more options of treatment and education for those already addicted, than to continue prescribing deadly drugs in fear of a mere possibility of a worse outcome?
It is obvious that our current system does not work, otherwise, 2.1 million wouldn’t suffer from opioid addiction. Something needs to change, and this may be where we begin to see a difference. While it is only the beginning to a very long road of modification and adjustment, we have to start somewhere. The Governor would agree. “This is just the beginning, let’s keep working on it”, Wolf noted. “These bills will allow us to continue to help our citizens suffering from substance-use disorders.”
Listed below are brief descriptions of each of the bills passed into law:
Act 122 HB 1699 (Brown): This law mandates that physicians in urgent care and emergency room departments not write prescriptions for opioid medication that last more than 7 days. Furthermore, physicians may not write refills.
Act 123 HB1737 (Maher): This piece of legislation allows all state, federal and local hospitals, police departments, nursing facilities and home health care agencies, assisted living facilities, and licensed pharmacy to act as drop-off locations for any unused, unwanted or expired prescription medication, as well as over-the-counter medicine.
Act 124 SB1202 (Yaw): This bill is to amend the Achieving Better Care by Monitoring All Prescriptions Program (ABC-MAP) Act which requires continuing education in pain management, addiction and dispensing for prescribers. It also requires dispensers to enter information into the ABC-MAP within 72 hours, whenever they dispense an opioid or other controlled substance. The amendment with require dispensers to input that information within 24 hours, as well as require physicians to check the database every time they wish to prescribe medication such opioids and benzodiazepines.
Act 125 SB1368 (Killion): This legislation will require an up-to-date, safe curriculum in medical schools and colleges surrounding addiction education and safe practices for prescribing. The curriculum must include: alternatives to opioid-based medications as a means of pain management; instructions on safe prescribing; age-appropriate pain management information; training on substance abuse as a primary and chronic disease, as well as identification of those that are at higher risk for addiction.
Act 126 SB1367 (Yaw): Amends Title 35 (Health & Safety) to create restrictions on the prescribing of opioid-based medications to minors. Physicians will also be required to take certain steps before writing an opioid prescription, as well as regulate those prescriptions to no more than seven days.
Contact Clearbrook For Opioid Addiction Treatment
Opioid addiction has affected the lives of so many. We have unfortunately witnessed it firsthand. However, we have also watched a countless number of people restore their lives and relationships, through treatment and ultimately, recovery.
If you or a loved one is suffering from chemical dependency or alcoholism, contact Clearbrook Treatment Centers and get the help you need. Our Admissions Specialists are available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Contact us now!