Tennessee has had a very hard time with the impact that the opiate epidemic has put on the state. Eastern Tennessee has been the hardest hit area, but the state as a whole has been dealing with the dreary effects of the opiate problem. State politicians are doing their best to fight the epidemic by changing laws that they feel are feeding the issue. Although some of the actions they have taken may not be in the best interest of all those in chronic pain, it will make a serious impact on the way that opiates are prescribed in the state.
I have been blogging about the opiate epidemic for close to 5 years. I have seen the ups and downs of the abuse and have witnessed countless lives who have suffered due to the problem. When it comes to limiting opiate prescriptions, I start to get a little uncomfortable. There are people in the United States who need opiate painkillers for their chronic pain. Many years ago patients with chronic pain did not have many options for their ailments. I feel the movement to liberalize prescribing of opiates so that no patient lives in chronic pain was the right choice to make. Unfortunately there were both patients and doctors who abused this movement. It became so bad, that hydrocodone is now the #1 prescribed medication in the United States. How do we fix this problem? That is the tough question that state politicians are trying to figure out.
Tennessee legislators have unanimously repealed the Intractable Pain Act in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, striking down a law local officials say has directly contributed to the prescription drug abuse epidemic in the state. This law was passed after Tennessee General Assembly found inadequate treatment of acute and chronic pain which the state labeled as a significant health problem. One of the big issues with the law was that a doctor may refuse to prescribe opiate medication to a patient who needs them. The doctors were legally obligated to inform the patient that there are other doctors who specialize in the treatment of chronic pain with methods that include the use of opiates. Many state officials believe the law offered illegitimate pain management clinics, or pill mills, a legal shield to avoid prosecution.
Repealing the law was a move by politicians to curb opiate abuse in their state. It is a bold move and will hopefully make a dent in the issue, but unfortunately will not stop the epidemic. The problem with this law is that it may hurt those with legitimate chronic pain. It is rough when a problem grows so large that it affects everyone, even those that are doing the right thing. This law will no doubt cause an uproar from patients but it will be interesting to see how it affects the statistic of opiate addiction and overdose rates in the state of Tennessee.