US Surgeon General’s Turn the Tide Initiative Drives Home Need for Action to Ensure Doctors Educate Patients and Themselves on Opiate Addiction
For Immediate Release: Contact: Rob Horowitz
August 24, 2016 401-595-5026
U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey's Co-Chair, Elaine Pozycki, and Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey's Ex. Director, Angelo M. Valente discuss the importance of patient notification during the “Turn the Tide Tour” in Livingston, NJ on 8/8/2016
At a NJ addiction forum, hosted by Senators Booker and Menendez in cooperation with Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey, the organization chair, US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy called doctors, nurses, and other healthcare providers, “the first line of defense in the battle against addiction”. The Surgeon General straightforwardly stated that the over prescribing of opiate-based painkillers was in large measure the cause of today’s opiate addiction epidemic, fueling dependence on opiate-based prescription drugs, such as Oxycodone and Vicodin as well as heroin, their illegal street cousin. His ‘Turn the Tide’ initiative is designed to get more doctors to talk to their patients about the risks of addiction and alternative pain relief treatments as well as educate themselves on the latest information on the epidemic and best prescribing practices. Towards that end, he is going to send a letter to all doctors in New Jersey and the nation urging them to do so.
The Surgeon General’s remarks drive home the need for action without further delay by the State Assembly on two critically important bills that are vital to combating the opiate addiction epidemic.
To ensure that conversations between health providers and patients take place, we must pass A3424; legislation that requires doctors and other prescribers when treating a patient under 18 to discuss the potential risks of dependency with the patient and their parents before writing a prescription for an opiate-based painkiller as well as to review alternative treatments, when appropriate.
This legislation sponsored by Assemblyman Joe Lagana (D-38), will ensure parents have the critical information needed to make an informed decision about whether their teenager should be prescribed an opiate. It has the added benefit of alerting parents to be on the lookout for any signs of dependence developing, if an opiate is prescribed. The importance of these kind of conversations between Doctors and patients is well-recognized and included in recently released CDC guidelines.
Prevent Opiate Abuse leaders noted that the teenage years are a “critical window of vulnerability for substance abuse disorders” according to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, “because the brain is still developing and still malleable”. The parts of the brain that are attracted to drug use mature before the parts of the brain that are responsible for making sound, non-impulsive decisions.
Pointing to a recent University of Michigan study that showed that high school students who use prescription opioids like OxyContin, Vicodin and other pain relievers are 33 percent more likely to abuse the drug by the age of 23, advocates asserted the critical importance to stopping opiate abuse in the teenage years.
Research shows that people who abuse or are dependent on prescription opiate painkillers are 40 times more likely to abuse or be dependent on heroin, which is opiate-based as well.
A more expansive patient notification bill (S2366) put forward by Senator Loretta Weinberg (D-37) and Senator Joe Vitale (D-19), which required a conversation with adult patients as well, passed the State Senate overwhelmingly at the end of 2014.
Additionally, the Assembly must pass, A3980 also sponsored by Lagana, along with Mazzeo, Zwicker, Vainieri Huttle. Green, Houghtaling, Downey and Benson, requiring that only people who receive ongoing training in best prescribing practices be given the authority to prescribe opiate-based painkillers. More specifically, doctors and other health professionals with prescribing authority would be required to complete continuing education credits on topics such as responsible prescribing practices and alternatives to opioids for managing pain. These new requirements would count towards the already existing continuing education obligations of health professionals and as result would not add to the total ongoing training load. Given the strong support in the state Senate for a comprehensive approach to combating opiate addiction, we are confident that if this legislation clears the Assembly, it will easily pass the NJ Senate.
By passing these two important measures, the State Assembly can make the Surgeon General’s vision of doctors and other health providers as the “first line of defense against addiction” a New Jersey reality preventing more ruined lives and senseless deaths. I call on the Speaker to act now—without further delay.
Elaine Pozycki is Chair of the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey