We’ve previously discussed the devastating effects that the opioid epidemic has had on the state of Tennessee. In Appalachia, overdose mortality rates are 70% higher than in other parts of the country. Today, legislators aim to address one of the root causes of the opioid crisis by enacting a new law that requires doctors to e-submit prescriptions.
Safer Opioid Prescribing Practices
For better or worse, medical professionals have played a significant role in America’s opioid crisis. Overprescription was one of the factors that transformed problematic use of these medicines into a national disaster – in 2014, Americans filled more than 245 million prescriptions for opioid pain relievers, making them the most prescribed medication in the country. This pattern continues despite proof that other approaches to pain treatment may be more effective and carry less risk of addiction.
In response to these trends, the National Institute on Drug Abuse has compiled several resources on safer prescribing practices for physicians. They say that while chronic pain affects over 100 million Americans, opioids may not be appropriate for many of these patients. The NIDA recommends more extensive training on pain, including establishing a practice on prescribing the lowest effective dose and no greater quantity than needed for severe pain. They advise providers to explore non-opioid therapies and other evidence-based treatments. Until alternatives to opioid painkillers become widespread, the decision has been made to regulate the prescription of these drugs.
E-Submission Changes State Standards for Prescriptions
Beginning in 2021, Tennessee doctors will have to electronically submit (e-submit) all opioid prescriptions to pharmacists. This means that instead of handing each patient a handwritten note to bring to the pharmacy, physicians will be able to digitally send prescription requests.
Advocates state that this policy will address several key issues surrounding opioid use, including forgery, doctor shopping, pharmacy hopping, and the receipt of improper dosages.
Forged prescriptions have become a characteristic issue of legal drugs like opioids. Many people addicted to painkillers have stolen pads from doctors’ offices and written themselves fraudulent prescriptions by hand. Others have changed dosages or amounts on the written scripts that they receive. E-submission of oxycodone and hydrocodone will ensure that only legitimate requests will be honored, and patients can be protected. This should also cut down on physicians’ errors, ensuring that each person receives the proper amount of medication.
Additionally, by requiring physicians to e-submit their prescriptions, lawmakers believe it will easier to identify instances of “doctor shopping” and “pharmacy hopping.” These practices are characterized by individuals visiting several different places to obtain and fill new prescriptions. For more information about Tennessee’s laws around pharmacies, visit tn.gov.
Treatment for Opioid Addiction
While the new legislation may go a long way towards preventing opioid misuse, it will also affect those who are currently addicted to painkillers. Individuals who are no longer able to forge prescriptions or obtain opioids may experience withdrawal symptoms that compel them to turn elsewhere. In previous years, most people began using heroin before taking opioids. Today, almost 80% of people addicted to heroin say that they were first addicted to prescription opioids – a complete reversal from historical patterns of substance use.
Heroin is extremely addictive, and it is very concerning that someone would begin using it after their prescription opioids became unavailable. If you or a loved one are facing this after the new e-submit law goes into effect, we encourage you to contact Cumberland Heights.
At Cumberland Heights, our Safe Start program helps individuals to overcome their dependence on prescription and illicit opioids. This physician-monitored treatment is an extended release of Naltrexone, which reduced cravings and blocks the effects of opioids. There is no chance of dependency with this drug, and it serves as the first step of our treatment process.
Once withdrawal has been addressed, participants in our programs will have a fully customized residential or outpatient experience. Typically, these programs will include family counseling, group therapy, relapse prevention, 12-Step meetings, and aftercare. Recovery is most effectively accomplished with medical supervision at an accredited addiction treatment center. To learn more about our approach to healing opioid addiction, contact Cumberland Heights today.