The State of Illinois is taking a lead in the fight against prescription drugs by becoming the first to introduce a locking device on some prescription opiates. This move is expected to make it harder for teens and other people to abuse these drugs. In its formative stages, the bill seeking the enforcement of this regulation received mixed reactions from a cross-section of stakeholders.
Some saw it as a good idea arguing that it will effectively reduce the number of fatalities that the state has been witnessing due to opiate and heroin overdose cases. Opponents, however, argue that the cost implication for this locking mechanism might be too burdensome for the customers who genuinely need the drugs. They further argue that the numerical locking devices might prove difficult to handle for the elderly and people with visual impairments. As a counter to these claims, the proponents of the bill argue that the success of the program would lead to lower arrests and lower fatalities.
The numerical devices are designed in a similar fashion as the locking devices found in gym lockers. A previous hearing in which a former addict and experts from the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) were called to testify revealed how cases of opioid painkiller abuse have escalated in the State of Illinois. Experts from the heroin task force stated how a tsunami of painkillers over-prescription had swept over the state and plunged the state and the nation into a heroin epidemic.
The introduction of this locking device is only one of the measures adopted to fight the high rate of opiate abuse in the state. Other measures will include limiting the amount of opiate-based painkillers that a pharmacist can dispense to a patient in a 10-day dosage, sensitizing doctors on how to spot and stop “pill-shoppers” and introducing a state prescription monitoring program which aims at capturing the details of patients who have received a prescription from their doctor.
Authorities in Illinois are optimistic that the locking devices will help in reducing the number of new addictions. Opiates have been found to act as gateway drugs that often lead to heroin addiction. The regulations enacted by the government on prescription drugs make them hard to come by. The limited supply that makes it to the black market are very expensive. Opiate addicts often find it convenient to shift from using prescription pills to the use of heroin. Compared to prescription pills, heroin, though illegal, is readily available and relatively cheaper on the black market.
The introduction of the locking devices will therefore not only reduce the number of opiate abusers in the state but hopefully cut down on the number of opiate addicts that transition to heroin abuse.
Good news for the people of Illinois, the proposal to introduce locking devices on prescription bottles has been signed by Gov. Bruce Rauner and this measure is expected to take effect in 2016. Accordingly, the one-year program is expected to target painkillers that contain hydrocodone as the active ingredient. Sen. Iris Martinez, who is one of the sponsors of the bill, noted that the new measure will help to stop those without a prescription from accessing the prescription drugs.