While many states are caught in the grip of the opiate epidemic, states such as new New Mexico, which had the second-highest death rate for drug overdose deaths in the nation in 2014–are implementing new laws aimed at slowing the alarming trend. Can these laws make a dent in the new cases of overdoses and addiction?
A few laws that were considered “soft” on requirements in New Mexico are already being credited with saving lives. In 2015, New Mexico’s overdose rate went from 49th to 43rd. Experts say that this is because of a database that allows physicians to track their patients’ prescriptions. Although the law helped deter opioid abuse and duplicated prescriptions, not enough doctors were using it, according to legislators. In fact, only 30 percent of the cases in which doctors prescribed opioids to their patients.
Increased Prescription Monitoring
Because the law is promising with its results, legislators took it one step further and created the Opioid Prescription Monitoring Act. Passed last session and taking effect last week, the law requires physicians and other medical practitioners to check an online database before treating patients with opioids. All opioids prescribed are to be noted on each patient’s medical record. The intent is to avoid multiple, overlapping prescriptions, which are often an attempt at “doctor shopping” and a sign that a patient needs pain medication
Increased Naloxone Availability in Communities
In communities where drug overdoses run rampant, making a crucial drug, naloxone, available to reduce deadly overdoses has become a priority. New Mexico has also joined a large list of states that are increasing access to naloxone to include direct access to the drug for addicts, their families, and other parts of the community that want to help save lives. In 2017, New Mexico, Ohio, Utah and Michigan are implementing laws that allow consumers to purchase the drug directly. Other states are struggling to catch up with the reality of sometimes dozens of overdoses in a week. New York, for example, is grappling to pass a law that will fund more of the lifesaving drug on ambulance rides.
More naloxone in a community means there is a higher chance the medicine will be available during an opioid overdose, reducing the chance of a death from the overdose and empowering not only first responders but bystanders, as well, to administer the antidote to reverse an overdose that could result in death.
More Still Can Be Done to Reduce Overdoses
Together, these new laws are helping to save lives, but without vital treatment resources, funding for treatment programs and detox, many addicts who are already grappling addiction may overdose and turn back to the street. Any measures that reduce cases of addiction and overdose deaths are a great thing, but addicts don’t just need to be revived, they need a follow-through from their politicians. Many officials elected in 2016 promised to implement measures to fight the addiction crisis. Let’s hope 2017 is the year they put the money into addiction recovery as well.
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