A new law proposed this spring in New Jersey would require doctors who prescribe their patients certain kinds of medications to explicitly discuss the risks of addiction.
Will a law help curb the heroin addiction crisis?
One New Jersey legislator certainly hopes so. Senator Joseph Vitale is the sponsor of the new bill, and as far as he’s concerned, such a measure can only help. The proposal is part of a 21-bill package that addresses other elements of the mounting drug abuse problem. It tackles drug prevention, education, treatment and recovery in the state of New Jersey.
This particular bill would mandate that doctors prescribing opiate painkillers, which have been directly linked to heroin use, speak with their patients about the dangers of opiate addiction.
Senator Vitale says that it’s a simple conversation that can have invaluable results. “You know, it’s not a huge waste of anyone’s time to have that conversation, and we’re not trying to instruct doctors how to practice medicine,” said Vitale. “We just think that patients ought to be informed of all the information that’s out there and [that doctors should] be forward about potential consequences.”
Some doctors want “discretion”
Still, some doctors see it differently, saying the law goes too far, and that it does indeed instruct them how to practice medicine. Others in the medical field, like Claudine Leonie with the New Jersey Academy of Family Physicians, say that mandating this kind of doctor-patient discussion will make the conversations less meaningful, forcing both parties to simply go through the motions.
“We want to make it functional, practical and useful,” said Leonie. “So just randomly mandating a discussion, I don’t think, will have the impact that they’re intended to have.” While doctors aren’t necessarily opposed to talking to patients about the dangers of addiction, she explained, they would like to be able to do so at their own discretion.
But has discretion been good enough?
Looking at the statistics, heroin use has been on the rise for nearly a decade: since 2007, each year, more Americans used it than the year before. Though there is no single cause for the upward trend, pain medications have played a significant role. It’s estimated that one in 15 people who abuse pain medication, whether using it without a prescription, or using for reasons other than prescribed, will try heroin within 10 years.
Of course, doctors cannot be blamed for the heroin crisis, especially when taking into account that many of those dependent on pain medication (and ultimately heroin) did not have a valid prescription to begin with.
Still, while doctors do deserve a level of professional discretion, looking at the highly addictive nature of opiate drugs, it is hard to see a downside to a bill like Senator Vitale’s. Awareness and education have the ability to prevent problems before they even start.
Getting help when you need it
Whether it’s an addiction to a prescription drug, heroin, cocaine, alcohol or other substance, it can take a stronghold on your life very quickly. Finding lasting recovery often requires help. The Watershed can offer that help. If you are ready to get sober, if you are looking for help for a loved one, or even if you have questions about addiction, call us today: 1-800-861-1768.Tags: New Jer