Informing doctors on the death rate associated with opioid prescription may reduce subsequent overdoses in the state. graphic by Conner Maggio

State opioid law to create doctor-patient dialogue

The new state law will help educate both physicians and patients about the risks of opioid addiction.

The use of opioids in Oklahoma is growing as more patients are prescribed painkillers in an attempt to treat chronic pain. This increase in prescriptions is dangerous, however, as more Oklahomans are becoming addicted to opioids and dying of overdoses.

According to the Oklahoma Drug Threat Assessment by the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics, “Oklahoma continues to lead the nation in the abuse of prescription opioids. Over 4.1 million prescriptions were dispensed in Oklahoma in 2017, which equates to a prescription rate of 106.7 prescriptions per 100 people.” Oklahoma has to do something to face down this massive problem.

In an attempt to fix it, the Oklahoma State Legislature passed Senate Bill 1446, which went into effect on Nov. 1. The bill attempts to crack down on opioids through a series of measures ranging from prescription rates to doctor and patient education.

For example, medical prescribers such as doctors or nurses will only be able to prescribe one week’s worth of medicine for a new patient, and the dosage must be the lowest amount possible. After this initial week, before any additional usage is allowed, medical prescribers are required to have a formal consultation with their patients about the risks of opioid abuse and determine whether they should move forward with the prescription.

On every subsequent renewal, a medical practitioner must make a check to see if they sense a risk for addiction. Finally, medical practitioners are required to have one hour of education about opioid abuse before they can renew their medical license every year. This policy is a good step in providing important safety protocols to hopefully ensure that doctors will not over-prescribe and that patients will not receive more than is necessary.

This new legislation is a great start toward reducing the rate of opioid overdoses and over-prescriptions. It places a series of roadblocks that should catch the problem before it starts. The benefit of this bill is that it does not merely restrict the use and prescription of opioids, but rather helps create a conversation between doctor and patient. These requirements are important because they help inform the patient about the issues as well as working as a warning against addiction.

In this process, the patient understands the risks at hand and can help make better decisions for themselves with the help of their doctor. The use of documented dialogues makes sure that patients have a grasp of the medications they are taking and won’t be caught in a cycle of addiction that many Oklahomans currently face.

While patient education is important, it is even more essential that doctors and medical practitioners are knowledgeable about the risks of opioids and potential available alternatives. By creating a standard of regular education about the risks, doctors can be more prepared to help their patients. By telling doctors about the risk to patients, they can hopefully halt the trend of addiction. In addition, educational standards help prevent doctors who are constantly over-prescribing opioids from causing problems for their patients.

In a study done by the San Diego County medical examiner’s office, doctors were sent a letter informing them when a patient of theirs died from opioid abuse. Doctors who received such a letter were seven percent less likely to prescribe opioids to new patients and were also less likely to prescribe high-dosage medication.

This study indicates that by educating doctors on the risk of opioids, their rate of over-prescribing can go down. Through an agreement between government officials and doctors, we can lower the risk of starting the dangerous spiral of opioid addiction.

This legislation is a positive step in reducing the rates of opioid addiction and overdoses in Oklahoma. While this problem will not end easily, it is important to take measures to protect the lives of Oklahomans from opioid abuse. Education is extremely important as it empowers both the doctors and the patient to make the right decision for themselves. By enforcing such legislation, we create a system where fewer people will be addicted to opioids in years to come.

Post Author: Nathan Hinkle