State lays out new, harsher regulations to deal with opioid crisis

DOVER — To help limit the opioid crisis plaguing the state, Delaware Secretary of State Jeffrey Bullock has proposed new, stricter regulations.

The Department of State announced Wednesday three changes that are aimed to reducing the frequency with which opioids are prescribed and subsequently abused. Under the new guidelines, doctors would be able to provide an initial supply no longer than seven days for patients recovering from an injury or procedure. Issuing a supply that lasts longer than a week would require the doctor consult the patient’s history in the State’s Prescription Monitoring Program and inform him or her of the risks of addiction, accidental overdose and other consequences.

Individuals being treated for chronic pain with opioids would have to sign a treatment agreement, and biannual doctor visits and urine drug tests would be mandatory as well.
The changes would apply to any Delaware doctor licensed to dispense controlled substances.

“These new regulations recognize the undeniable link between prolonged prescriptions for opioids and the addictions that can result from their overuse. The regulations are also an acknowledgement that opioids are a gateway to the abuse of illegal drugs, especially heroin,” Mr. Bullock said in a statement. “Many individuals struggling with opioid addiction have indicated that it started with an injury or medical procedure and a prescription for opioids such as Percocet or Vicodin. The proposed regulations lay out requirements for the safe prescribing for both instances of acute pain as well as chronic, long-term conditions involving pain treatment.”

The proposed changes were developed by the Controlled Substance Advisory Committee after months of work, including a public hearing. They follow guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

They are available for public comment until May 31.

According to the Delaware State Department, approximately 2 million Americans were reliant on prescription opioids in 2014, and drugs killed 204 Delawareans that year.

“The addiction epidemic is taking a terrible toll on individuals and families across our state, including accidental overdose deaths, hospitalizations, babies being born addicted, homelessness, families in crisis and many other challenges,” said Department of Health and Social Services Secretary Rita Landgraf. “We must reduce the pipeline to prescription drugs while ensuring that legitimate pain needs are met. With every step, we will support medical providers in their efforts to reduce opioid prescribing.”

Anyone who is battling drug addiction or has a family member or friend doing so can visit www.HelpIsHereDE.com for information and assistance. More information on the Prescription Drug Action Committee, is available at http://dhss.delaware.gov/dhss/dph/pdachome.html.

Reach staff writer Matt Bittle at mbittle@newszap.com

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