Prescription drug abuse

New state laws are designed to curb prescription drug abuse.

Weekly column written for members of the Arkansas House of Representatives.

Many of the laws we passed during the Regular Session went into effect last week. Among those are several pieces of legislation designed to reduce the amount of prescription drug abuse in our state.

Overdose fatalities are now the leading cause of accidental deaths in America. According to the Center for Disease Control about 44 deaths per day involve prescription painkillers.

Act 1114 is known as the Joshua Ashley-Pauley Act provides immunity for anyone in possession of a controlled substance if that individual is seeking his or her own medical assistance or seeking medical assistance for an individual experiencing a drug overdose. This act was named after a 20-year-old Conway man who died of an overdose. Those with him at the time said they were afraid to call for help for fear of prosecution.

We also passed legislation providing immunity from civil liability and professional sanctions to any health care professional who administers Naloxone to an individual experiencing an opiate overdose. Naloxone is a prescription drug that can counter the effects of an opiate overdose. The same immunity is provided for any person acting in good faith who believes that another person is experiencing an overdose as long as that individual obtained the drug through a prescription from a health care professional.

This year the General Assembly strengthened the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program. Act 1208 allows the Department of Health to develop a database program that would alert a physician if his or her patient is being prescribed pain medication by more than three physicians within a 30 day period. It directs hospitals to adopt guidelines concerning prescribing in the emergency rooms. This legislation also includes an education component, directing prescribers to obtain at least 2 hours of prescribing education within the first two years of being granted a license.

You also have an opportunity to limit abuse. Since many times abusers steal prescriptions from individual medicine cabinets, the Arkansas Drug Directors office along with law enforcement from across the state team up twice a year to create secure drop-off locations for individuals who need to dispose of no longer needed medication. The next Arkansas Take Back event has been scheduled for 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, September 26 . To find the drop-off location nearest you, visit www.artakeback.org .

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