Jim Wood, the North Coast Assemblyman, has been considering the addition of a new bill in 2016 that would focus on curbing prescription related overdoses and deaths. Reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that there was a fourteen percent rise in the amount of deaths between 2013 and 2014, with the highest rates of overdose deaths occurring in New Mexico, West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky, and New Hampshire.
States such as California also showed an increase of 100 deaths in that time period, for a total of over 4500 drug-related deaths in that state. The CDC has attributed the increase of use of prescription opioids and the move to heroin as the biggest contributors to the opiate epidemic. There is hope from Wood that this new bill may halt this progression.
Assembly Bill 623 was proposed during the last year’s legislative session by Wood, who was seeking to reduce overall access to narcotic pain medications. Additionally, it will require pharmacists to counsel their patients about how to properly store and dispose of their medication. Finally, it would have pushed physicians into prescribing Abuse-Deterrent Formulation opioids, which make pain pills uncrushable, un-dissolvable, and un-cuttable so that they cannot be snorted or injected.
While there was support for Ab 623, it couldn’t move forward last year as there needed to be additional considerations added. That put it on the docket for January of 2016. A spokesperson for Wood spoke out about the changes to the bill.
“We are working on exploring new strategies to include in the proposal. We want to make sure that we offer a robust approach to dealing with opioid abuses. While we believe the first draft of the proposal was a great step, we are working to make it more comprehensive based on the feedback we received last year.”
Even supporters of this bill have voiced certain concerns. Tom Allman, the Mendocino County Sheriff, stated that he saw issues with the county having nearly double the average deaths from prescription drugs than the numbers the state showed. Reports show that Mendocino County had 59 documented deaths in 2012, with a non-fatal hospitalization rate of 39 people. Their numbers are 2.5 times greater than the state average.
“These types of reports show how important it is that we all intensify our efforts to help addicts. We must prevent addiction and offer support and treatment to those who are suffering while blocking the availability,” stated Dr. Tom Frieden, the CDC director. The focus has become intense as reports show that over sixty percent of all drug overdose deaths in 2014 were linked to opioids of some kind.
In addition to the climbing rates of prescription deaths, heroin overdoses have climbed 26% as well. The CDC attributes that to the increased availability of heroin and its lower price when compared to prescription opioids.
These numbers have propelled every state into action. The 2016 presidential budget is now expected to include a 133 million investment that will be targeting opioid misuse and abuse across the country. This, in addition to local efforts, should help to stem the rising tide of opiate addiction.