The U.S. Senate passed Jessie’s Law (S. 581) in a marathon session held on Aug. 3, 2017, before the legislators broke for their summer recess. The bill, which was passed by unanimous consent, mandates the inclusion of information about a consenting patient’s opioid addiction history in individual medical records, which can then be shared with physicians, nurses, clinicians and pharmacists. Named after Jessie Grubb, a recovering opioid addict, who suffered a relapse and subsequently overdosed on opioids prescribed by her surgeon, who was unaware of her addiction history, the bill was introduced in March 2017, by Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia. The bill now needs to be passed by the House of Representatives before President Trump can sign it into a law.
“We must ensure physicians and other medical professionals have full knowledge of a patient’s previous opioid addiction when determining appropriate medical care,” said Sen. Manchin in a statement after the bill was passed in the Senate. “Today, Jessie’s Law passed in the Senate and it is a moment I am grateful to be a part of. This legislation honors the life of Jessie, someone who was lost too soon to something that was 100 percent preventable.” He further added that the bill would help prevent tragedies, such as the death of Jessie, in future, by providing physicians access to a patient’s history of opioid addiction. The bill also requires the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to create standards that would be used by physicians and hospitals to emphatically display a patient’s history of addiction to prescription drugs in their medical records so that it may be considered at par with allergies and other contraindications while prescribing opioids.
Commonly abused prescription drugs in America
According to the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), approximately 3.8 million Americans, aged 12 years or older, reported current use of prescription drugs for non-medical purposes. The top three most misused categories of prescription medicines include the following:
- Opioids: These are prescription medicines which act on the opioid receptors in the spinal cord and brain to numb the intensity of pain. Chemically, the structure of opioid medications is identical to that of heroin. Apart from alleviating pain, opioids are also known to activate areas in the brain associated with rewards, causing euphoric sensations which are highly addictive in nature. This highlights the great risks of potential abuse and addiction. Some examples of prescription opioid drugs include oxycodone (OxyContin®, Percocet®), hydrocodone (Vicodin®), morphine (Avinza®), codeine, fentanyl, and several others.
- Stimulants: These are a class of prescription drugs used to treat a handful of health conditions like attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), narcolepsy, etc. The most widely abused prescription stimulants are Adderall® and Modafinil®.
- Central nervous system (CNS) depressants: These are prescription medicines such as tranquilizers, sedatives and hypnotics, which can slow brain activity, and are used to treat anxiety and depression-related problems. Some examples of CNS depressants are benzodiazepines, such as diazepam (Valium®), and alprazolam (Xanax®); non-benzodiazepines sleep medications, such as zolpidem (Ambien®); and barbiturates, such as mephobarbital (Mebaral®), and pentobarbital sodium (Nembutal®).
Patients, medical practitioners, physicians, health care professionals, together with pharmacists, play an important role in identifying and preventing any unauthorized use of prescription drugs, as well as instances of doctor shopping. In order to reduce dependence on life-wrecking opioids, doctors must consider using more evidence-based screening tools and methods as a part of any consultation process, while promoting other alternative forms of treatment. Patients must also be educated about the dangers of addiction, overdose, and the dangerous consequences of mixing prescription medicines with other intoxicants. Similarly, the vigilance of pharmacists can also help recognize counterfeit prescriptions or any alterations which could signal abuse.
Prescription drug addiction can be treated
In recent years, data suggest that the number of opioids prescribed to patients is directly proportional to the surge in opioid overdose deaths signaling an ever-growing opioid epidemic nationwide. This is corroborated by statistics reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which reveals that 91 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose.
Sadly, innumerable Americans succumb to an addiction more quickly than they might ever realize. The only way to regain sobriety is to undergo an individualized prescription drug addiction treatment program at a reputed drug addiction rehab to combat the life-wrecking effects of harmful opioids. Sovereign Health understands the plight of someone who is unable to discontinue the use of lethal prescription drugs despite the negative impact on his or her life. Our customized addiction recovery plans at Sovereign Health of San Clemente are designed to treat the person holistically.
If you or your loved one is battling an addiction to any prescription drug, call our 24/7 helpline number or chat online to know about our state-of-the-art addiction treatment centers spread across California and other states of the U.S.