Opinion: Evan Low’s legislation will help reduce opioid abuse

Opioid abuse today is devastating families and destroying communities. Yet patients often need opioids to control unrelenting pain. The effort to control opioid abuse must be tempered with the need to treat pain humanely and adequately.

In 2016, opioid overdoses killed more than 42,000 people in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, deaths from prescribed opioids have leveled off since 2010, but there have been sharp increases in deaths from heroin and illegal synthetic opioids including fentanyl. Legally prescribed opioids often are the gateway to the use of heroin and other potentially lethal opioids.

Assemblymember Evan Low, D-San Jose, is doing his part to provide solutions to the opioid epidemic. Low’s legislation centers around thoughtful ways to strengthen the Controlled Substance Utilization Review and Evaluation System (CURES), a computerized database maintained by the state Department of Justice for electronic monitoring of the prescribing and dispensing of controlled substances including opioids. This database allows physicians to check if a patient is obtaining multiple opioid prescriptions by “doctor-shopping” among different offices or emergency departments.

The California Society of Anesthesiologists (CSA) applauds Low’s efforts and other state legislators who are tackling the opioid epidemic.

Physicians who specialize in anesthesiology and pain medicine are developing best practices that are reducing the use of opioids in the operating room and at the patient’s bedside after surgery. We can offer techniques like nerve blocks and epidurals that can reduce the need for opioids after painful procedures and recommend non-opioid medications to help with pain relief. When patients use fewer opioids in the hospital, they are less likely to need them at home afterward.

Physician anesthesiologists also support improved ways of helping patients who are already in the grip of opioid dependence or addiction. Harsh limits on opioid prescription run the risk of pushing people into obtaining opioids via the black market. Instead, our society needs to put financial and health insurance support behind behavioral therapy, physical therapy, mental health treatment, and advanced pain medicine techniques to help patients taper off opioid medications. For example, a medication called buprenorphine can be part of a comprehensive treatment plan to reduce opioid dependency and diminish withdrawal symptoms, but many insurance plans currently refuse to cover it.

Opioids can play an important role after surgery or trauma, and in cancer treatment, so it is critical for medical doctors to use their training and expertise to determine the best …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Health

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