Around 30 states have implemented new laws and policies, limiting physician’s ability to prescribe opioid pain pills to their patients. The most common method is to put a limit on the first prescription for opioid pills, stipulating that it should be for a week or less. There are also rules about the potency of these pills.
Some state governments have also increased or initiated funding to educate people on the dangers of opioid addiction, treatment, and prevention. This needs to be stronger than a warning label from the pharmacist.
States hope to lower the rate of addiction to opiate pain pills and slow the supply of legal opiate pain pills that seeps into the black market. However, the problem is deeper with ingredients, such as fentanyl, and pill makers available on the dark web. Building a wall would have little effect as small quantities of fentanyl to make these pills come through the mail.
Curbing prescriptions is a start, but people who have already developed an addiction will find the pills needed to sustain their addiction harder to obtain from legal sources, such as their doctor. Many individuals addicted to opiates order variants of the drug online from other countries and have them delivered right to their door.
Individuals addicted to opiates go “doctor shopping” to find other doctors who turn a blind eye or have several fake IDs set up to evade identification to ensure their supply never runs out. People who obtain opiate pain pills through their doctor sometimes sell the pills to other individuals addicted to opiates, rather than use it themselves. Some doctors also continue to prescribe them, for physical and mental health concerns.
Street drugs are the answer for many people who have been thrown off the system and this is riskier. Alternatives to opiate pain pills, such as heroin or fentanyl are often cheaper on the street, readily available and are often times much more potent. There is also the concern that people needing their fix will take whatever is available, and that can raise the risk of overdose.
Dr. Cidambi argues there are better ways to deal with the problem.
First is education. Many of these medications are prescribed by physicians who do not fully understand the addictive nature of these medications. Healthcare providers need to be educated on these issues so they can prescribe responsibly. They will be armed with information about the dangers the medications pose, are will be able to counsel their patients.
Once they understand the potential dangers, they will also be able to recognize the signs of addiction. Through continuous education, they will understand how addiction develops and be able to intervene before the patient becomes addicted.
Second is to provide more treatment options. Working with a patient on an outpatient basis allows them to engage in treatment while not disturbing their daily life. It also reduces the stigma associated with the disease of addiction.
The integration of the home environment into treatment and involvement of family, or other loved ones results in better outcomes. This is vital, as the patient is still in touch with his work and the patient’s family now understands the chronic nature of addiction better. It enables the patient to begin making lifestyle changes when they are in treatment with professional detox support.
Dr. Cidambi is a leader in addiction treatment and innovator of safe and effective ambulatory (outpatient) detoxification level of care for alcohol, benzodiazepines, opiates, and suboxone. Prior to founding the Center for Network Therapy, she completed her residency in Psychiatry at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn and an Addiction Medicine Fellowship at NYU/Bellevue Hospital in New York. Due to the successful detoxification program, Dr. Cidambi was featured frequently by media outlets, including NPR, CBS, NY Times, and Wall Street Journal.