N.J. opioid bills get committee approval, closer to becoming law

TRENTON — Several bills aimed at fighting opioid addiction in New Jersey are one step closer to becoming law.

State Senate and Assembly committees approved legislation Monday on expanding health insurance coverage for addiction treatment, raising public awareness on heroin and opioids, and creating an opioid task force.

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Christie’s crusade against heroin faces a rocky reality


Advocates, critics react to Christie’s sweeping drug plan

“Anti-drug advocates hailed Gov. Chris Christie’s pledge Tuesday to make New Jersey’s addiction crisis a top job in the final year of his term in office, but there were worries about funding and follow through.

Using soaring rhetoric, heartfelt personal stories of loss and unmistakable zeal, the governor used his State of the State address to outline a series of new initiatives to battle  the opioid epidemic that has devastated New Jersey.”

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Bill Would Require Minors Getting Opioids Be Notified of Addiction Risk

“The state’s opioid addiction toll on young people is staggering. Last year 1,587 people died of overdoses. The Governor’s Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse reported some 4,200 people under the age of 25 were admitted to substance abuse treatment programs in 2012. And those addicted to prescription painkillers dwarfed the number addicted to heroin, hallucinogens and cocaine combined. Lawmakers are considering requiring doctors and dentists to discuss the dangers and alternatives to opioid-based painkillers before prescribing them to young people. The executive director of the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey is Angelo Valente.”

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AT ISSUE: Is N.J. winning war on heroin? – Editorial by Elaine Pozycki in Asbury Park Press

When we use the term heroin “epidemic,” is that too strong a word? Or do you think that properly describes the scope of the current heroin problem in New Jersey?

There is a national epidemic of opioid addiction to opioid-based prescription painkillers and to heroin, their illegal street cousin, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And New Jersey is no exception. It is the leading cause of accidental death in the United States and in New Jersey, taking 28,893 lives nationally in 2014, 18,893 from prescription painkillers and 10,574 from heroin. More than 1,250 New Jerseyans died from drug overdoses in 2014. The heroin death rate in New Jersey is three times the national rate.

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LETTER: Delay on drug legislation ‘means more avoidable deaths’

by STEVE and ELAINE POZYCKI in the Bernardsville News

EDITOR: Guidelines recently issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) take direct aim at the over-prescribing of opiate-based painkillers, urging primary care doctors to try alternatives such as physical therapy, exercise and over-the-counter pain medications first.

Underlying these strong recommendations to prescribe opiate-based painkillers, such as Oxycodone and Vicadin, sparingly is that the over-prescribing of these highly addictive drugs is the primary cause of our epidemic of addiction, both to these pills and to heroin, their illegal street cousin – an epidemic that has become the leading cause of accidental death in the United States and in New Jersey, taking nearly 30,000 lives in 2014.

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A Strong Response to the Opioid Scourge – NYT Editorial

“For far too long, the medical profession and policy makers ignored growing evidence that prescription painkillers were causing great harm. Now that abuse has become an epidemic, the government needs to mount a much stronger response to it.”

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A simple question and a conversation could be key to fight opioid abuse

Almost half the patients taking pain medication in the past year were not asked one vital question
February 16, 2016 | By Matt Kuhrt
The opioid addiction crisis has led to increased pressure on primary care practices to look closely at the way they communicate with and care for afflicted patients. A new survey from the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation suggests primary care doctors could do more to stem addiction problems earlier in the cycle, simply by asking the right questions before prescribing pain medication.
As more and more primary care physicians find themselves on the front linesdealing with opioid addicts, they have also discovered that, in many cases, they unwittingly contributed to the problem by prescribing them in the first place, according to previous reporting by FiercePracticeManagement.
The biggest risk factor for addicts is “a past personal or family history of issues with alcohol and/or other drugs,” says Marvin D. Seppala, M.D., chief medical officer at the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation. It’s telling, then, that his organization’s survey found that 46 percent of the time patients indicated their doctors failed to ask about past problems before writing their prescriptions for opioid painkillers.
When dispensing opioids, Seppala suggests doctors need to keep in mind the stigma surrounding addiction and take the time to have a medical conversation with patients about the potential risks. As simple as this step may seem, 80 percent of the patients surveyed indicated their doctors prescribed opioid pain medication without their requesting it. In six of 10 cases, doctors didn’t even bother to tell patients the painkillers could be addictive.
Other survey findings suggest a conversation about what to do with leftover pills would be worthwhile, since 63 percent of patients reported keeping them around, and data from the National Institute on Drug Abuse indicate 54 percent of those using pain pills got them from a friend or relative for free.
To learn more:
– check out the survey results

OP-ED: SUPER BOWL AD SENDS WRONG MESSAGE ABOUT PRESCRIBING OPIOIDS

by Steve and Elaine Pozycki from the New Jersey Spotlight

With opioid overdoses the chief cause of accidental death in New Jersey, the media can’t make these drugs an acceptable part of life

This week, the White House rightly criticized an ad, which aired during the Super Bowl, designed to promote a drug to treat opioid-induced constipation. White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough and other officials blasted the ad, saying that the pharmaceutical companies should be running ads combating addiction, not fueling it. The danger of these kind of ads is that they normalize the use of opioid-based prescription painkillers, the overprescribing of which is the main driver fueling the epidemic of addiction to opiate-based painkillers and heroin.

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POZYCKI: Notify parents before teens are prescribed opiate

From the Asbury Park Press:

“While addiction to opiate-based prescription pain killers and their illegal street cousin heroin is spreading in all demographic and age groups, teenagers are at particular risk. High school students who use prescription opioids like OxyContin, Vicodin and other pain relievers are 33 percent more likely to abuse the drug by the age of 23, according to a recent University of Michigan Study. Further, New Jersey now has the sixth-highest youth overdose rate in the nation.”

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