Home Politics Legislation aims to diminish opioid abuse, reform prescription prevalence

Legislation aims to diminish opioid abuse, reform prescription prevalence

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The State House Opiate Addiction, Treatment and Reform subcommittee heard testimony Tuesday on a bundle of bills taking exclusive aim at the issue of opioid and prescription drug abuse in Ohio.

According to the House Committee schedule, five bills — H.B. 332, H.B. 341, H.B. 366, H.B. 378 and H.B. 359 — each received discussion time on the House floor Tuesday as part of an increasingly militant legislative rebuttal to what many view as a burgeoning opioid addiction epidemic.

National data from the Opiate Collaborative of Cuyahoga County says nearly three out of four prescription drug overdoses are the result of opioid painkillers. These overdoses led to 14,800 fatalities in 2008 — more than cocaine and heroin combined.

According to the Ohio Department of Health, drug overdose became the leading cause of injury-related deaths in Ohio in 2007, besting fatal automobile accidents for the first time on record and continuing through 2010.

Rep. Robert Sprague, R-Findlay, detailed in a Jan. 3 press release his committee’s “three-prong approach” to counteracting the opioid addiction surge: center on preventing the growth of new addicts, keep current addicts alive while stopping the illegal diversion of their medications and get people into effective treatment.

“The societal cost of the drug overdose epidemic is estimated to be over $3.5 billion annually in Ohio,” Sprague said in a statement. “We need to get in front of this problem, instead of chasing it from behind.”

The proposed legislation ultimately fares well with respect to the committee’s stated approach, combining elements that prove to be both eclectic and expansive in scope, such as prescription warning-label updates and mandated-concurrent counseling alongside an opioid prescription for recovering addicts.

William Denihan, CEO of the Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services Board of Cuyahoga County, called the legislation not only a “step in the right direction,” but also essential.

 “When we talk about this extraordinary explosion of opiate (prescription and also illegal opioid drugs such as heroin) related deaths, not just one thing is gonna do it,” Denihan said. “It has to be a combination of prevention, of enforcement, of regulation and of treatment.”

For Denihan, this is also where the problem arises.

“The General Assembly all too often passes a bill and doesn’t put any money with it,” Denihan said. “They’ve got to understand that these things take money. There has to be a quid-pro-quo, at some point, where money has to follow and if it doesn’t, it’s just a shallow discussion of a very good subject.”

The legislation is being vetted at the same time Vermont’s own opioid addiction debate is being dragged into national dialogue.

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