Give Parents the Information Needed to Prevent Opiate Addiction

Below is an editorial by Steve and Elaine Pozycki. They are Board members of the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey with Elaine serving as Co-Chair. 

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 6th highest youth overdose rate in the nation.
 
The teenage years are a “critical window of vulnerability for substance abuse disorders,” according to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, “because the brain is still developing and still malleable.” The parts of the brain that are attracted to drug use mature before the parts of the brain that are responsible for making sound, non-impulsive decisions
 
We must give parents the tools to prevent opiate addiction in their teenagers and children and that begins with arming them with the information they need to make an informed decision about the use of prescription painkillers.  As a just released John Hopkins University School of Public Health Report on the Opiate Epidemic, which strongly recommends tightening up prescribing practices, notes, “Doctors often prescribe pain medications “in quantities and for conditions that are excessive, and in may cases, beyond the evidence base.” And 85% of Doctors themselves say that opiate based pain medications are over-prescribed.  “The bottom line is we're not seeing consistent, effective, appropriate prescribing of painkillers across the nation, said Tom Frieden  M.D.,. Director of the CDC, “and this is a problem because of the deaths that result.”
 
That is why we are urging  the speedy adoption of the Parent Notification Bill (A4760) recently introduced by Assemblyman Joseph A. Lagana (D-38).
 
This legislation provides parents with the critical information needed to make an informed decision about whether their teenager should be prescribed an opiate by requiring that Doctors and other prescribers discuss the potential risks of dependency before writing a prescription as well as where appropriate discuss potential alternative treatments.  When parents make a decision to go forward with an opiate prescription, this legislation provides the added benefit of alerting them to be on the look out for any signs of dependence developing.
 
If parents must give permission before their child can go on a field trip to the Zoo, they sure should be asked for their sign-off, before their child is prescribed an opiate.
 
A more expansive Patient Notification bill (S2366), put forward by Senator Loretta Weinberg (D-37) and Senator Joe Vitale (D-19), which required a conversation with adult patients as well, passed the State Senate overwhelmingly at the end of 2014.  It has yet to receive a Committee hearing in the Assembly Health Committee, Chaired by Herb Conaway (D-7). We call on Assemblyman Conaway to post this more targeted version of the legislation for a Committee vote at the December 10 meeting of the Health Committee.  We are confident, if this bill is given an up and down vote in the Committee, it will clear this hurdle and then easily  pass both Houses of the State Legislature.
 
More than 1-in-4 Americans say that either they or a family member or close friend have been addicted to prescription pain killers., according to a Kaiser Family Foundation Poll. These kind of disturbing numbers tell us we must arm parents with the information they need to protect their children-before more lives are ruined and lost.  It is time for the Assembly to join the State Senate in taking action and that means the speedy passage of A 4760. 
 
 
Elaine and Steve Pozycki are Board members of the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey with Elaine serving as Chair.  Steve is the Founder and CEO of SJP Properties.

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