This past October 2016, Vermont proposed regulations that would limit the number of opioid-based prescriptions a patient can receive based on certain criteria. When just looking at the face value of this, it seems like a simple, no-nonsense way to curb the state’s raging opioid epidemic. However, some addiction treatment professionals aren’t so sure it will work. Let’s take a look at the benefits, and the shortcomings of state-based opioid prescription limits.
Let’s start with the concerns- First things first, state-based opioid prescription limits are limited to states that have them. So patients abusing opioids will be able to drive across state borders and see a different physicians, with more lenient prescribing privileges. These more restrictive prescribing guidelines could and probably will help prevent people from becoming addicted to opioids in the first place. However, it is hard to say it will make a significant dent in the number of people currently abusing opioids, or help those who need to get treatment.
“Doctors, licensed M.D.’s receive little to no training in addiction identification, or addiction treatment in medical school.”
The public looks to the medical professionals to manage, and ultimately eliminate opioid addiction. But doctors too often find themselves empty-handed when it comes to helping a patient overcome their prescription opioid addiction, as they don’t have the proper training to. When in medical school doctors not going into the addiction field, are not granted even a third of the education it takes to fully understand, identify, and treat substance abuse addiction. Helping doctors understand the serious risks inherent in over prescribing opioid-based medications would be a huge a step in the right direction.
There are also advantages to limiting a state’s number of opioid-based prescriptions. But no single regulation will solve every problem presented in the opioid epidemic. We can limit the supply of prescription opioids to the public, but as long as there’s a demand for opioid-based drugs, addiction will continue to be a major public health issue. We have to dig deeper into this issue, but how? Well by providing better training to doctors about prescribing opioids, identifying addiction, and quality treatment to those with a substance abuse problem. The solution to the opioid epidemic is multifaceted. It lies in prevention, physician training, and access to quality treatment.