The Pros and Cons of Limiting Opioid Prescriptions
The first exposure many have to opioids is through prescription drugs prescribed by their doctor. No longer are drugs only obtained on the streets; they are received every day from the comfort of a physician’s office. At first glance, the solution to this epidemic seems easy— just lower the amount of prescription drugs prescribed to patients. However, it is far more complicated than that.
See, recent regulations limiting the prescribing of prescriptions drugs saw an opposite effect. Instead of a decrease in overdoses and addiction, people addicted to opioids are now turning to heroin. The problem with heroin is, unlike prescription drugs, you do not know what dosage you are going to get. On top of that, some batches of heroin contain fentanyl or carfentanil which are several times stronger than heroin. Upon exposure to these drugs, many experience a fatal overdose.
Recently, Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin proposed regulations that would limit the number of opioid-based prescriptions a patient can receive based on certain criteria. Although the proposal seems like a practical way to curb the state’s raging opioid epidemic, many addiction professionals fear it will not work.
Here are the pros and cons of state-based opioid prescription limits.
Pro: Limiting the first exposure of opioids can help with addiction prevention.
For many, the first exposure to opioids is through a prescription. If fewer prescriptions are given, less will theoretically become addicted. Currently, opioids are so readily prescribed that almost anyone can find a way to obtain one. With prescription limits, opioid-based medicines will become less commonly prescribed. With fewer pills in the market, the fewer chances for abuse. At least, that is the logic that is being made in Vermont.
Con: State-based opioid prescription limits are limited to states that have them.
Since these regulations are limited to states that enforce them, this means there is the potential that patients abusing opioids will simply cross borders and see a different physician with more lenient prescribing privileges. Also, the limiting of prescription opioids may help those who are not already addicted, but it will not help those already addicted to opioids. More often than not, limiting prescription opioids only leads to heroin use.
Con: People have medical conditions that require opioid use. Limiting prescriptions will affect them.
It is important that any limits on opioids take note of those who use opioids safely for their medical conditions. Many patients are vocal about their fear that their use of opioid-based medications will be strained under the new guidelines. They worry it will be difficult to find opioid treatment when they desperately need it. The need for opioids by some patients cannot be overlooked.
Pro: It’s a start. No regulation will solve every problem.
Although limiting prescription opioids may cause harm and may not be helpful in the beginning, some argue in the long run; the effort is worth it. Each year, tens of thousands of lives are lost from opioid-related drug overdoses. There are definite advantages to limiting the amount of prescriptions prescribed in the state. In conclusion, the solution to the opioid epidemic is multifaceted and lies in prevention, education, and access to quality treatment.
States can limit prescription opioids, but it still does not change the incredible demand for opioid-based drugs in this country. While we may restrict the amount prescribed, addiction will continue to be a major public health issue.
Addiction is a disease, and the country is in the midst of figuring out how to decrease the amount of lives taken away due to addiction. If you are struggling right now, do not wait. Treatment is necessary, and you should not wait for an overdose to get help. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please call toll-free 1-800-777-9588.