In a March 19 report from the Associated Press, Connecticut and Alaska were confirmed to be the latest states to consider taking part in a “non-opioid directive” initiative, adopting a similar policy to existing legislature in Massachusetts and Pennsylvania.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), between 26.4 and 36 million people abuse opioids worldwide. Specifically in the US, approximately 2.1 million struggle with opioid addiction, as seen in the most recent statistics from 2014.
With millions coping with substance use and moving through the various stages of addiction recovery, millions are also at risk for relapse. The relapse risk for opioids is extremely high—in some instances as high as 90 percent—as painkillers are so widely prescribed and administered.
The non-opioid directive seeks to eliminate some of this risk.
The directive is a voluntary refusal of prescription painkillers which can remain on file in a patient’s medical chart. The document would also serve as the patient’s acknowledgement of risk of refusal, confirming that the denial of opioid treatment was/is a personal decision. While a patient has the right to refuse treatment without a signed directive, the directive confirms the patient’s status upfront, and can communicate a patient’s wishes if they were to become incapacitated.
Although this initiative only exists officially in two states so far, the news is encouraging, as it provides another step toward relapse prevention.
Pennsylvania state representative Ed Gainey, who proposed the legislation in his state, discussed the reasoning behind the development of such a policy.
“My whole thing is, ‘how can we give patients more control over their destiny? A lot of people are more aware now and while they’re more aware, it’s good that we let them know they have an option to opt out and not receive prescription drugs,” he said.
As the CDC released reports last week that opioid dependency can begin within days of the initial prescription, non-opioid directive legislature is an issue that we can expect to hear more about throughout the continued swells of the addiction epidemic.
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