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Posted on March 10, 2016 at 4:33 PM

According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine,
drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the US with close to
50,000 deadly overdoses in 2015 alone. 
Opioid addiction accounted for nearly 20,000 of these and heroin alone was a
factor in just over 10,500 deaths. The magnitude of opioid abuse related
hospitalizations, sales of prescription pain killers and deaths have increase
exponentially between 1999 and 2008 according to ASAM. Increased access to
Narcan (naloxone) to reverse life threatening effects of opioid for first
responders has now expanded to making Narcan available to the general public as
well. In some areas, Narcan can be purchased without a prescription by family
members and friends who expect they may need to quickly rescue a loved one. 
While I support this program because it can and will likely save lives, it
does not address the need for effective rehabilitation of persons who suffer
the all-consuming and devastating effects of opioid addiction. Regulations
which will allow persons with opioid addictions to be detained involuntarily in
health care setting are also being discussed, but pose some dilemmas as well.

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker has taken a strong
stand to help limit access to the powerful pain medication by placing statutory
limits on the quantity of opioid pain medication that can be prescribed to a
patient to a 72 hour supply the first time opioids are prescribed to them –
with exceptions.  Ph
ysicians have had a mixed response according the October 2015 Boston Globe
article. Some cite that placing prescribing restrictions on prescribing pain
killers is an invasion of the state into the doctor-patient relationship and
dismisses the clinical judgment of physicians to discern a given patient’s need
for pain relieving medications. Others indicate that this is a public health
matter and deserves statutory supports as have other issues that post a risk to
the wellbeing of the population at large. Who is helped and who is harmed by
restricting opioid prescriptions and providing naloxone without a prescription
to the public? It seems these are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of a
robust program for addressing the opioid addiction crisis in the US. Prevention
will be more complicated than limiting the supply that flows from a physicians
prescription pad and rescue will ultimately require more than easily access to


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