More opiate scripts

While per capita opiate prescriptions have been on the decline in Ohio, locally the trend is moving in the other direction.

Washington County’s per capita opiate prescriptions rose 9 percent between 2010 and 2012-the 11th biggest increase in the state.

The data was adapted by the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services from information from The Ohio State Board of Pharmacy.

Similarly the local trend of opiate abuse has not diminished in recent years, according to experts.

However, tools for prescribers and legislation that would give a powerful tool to friends or family members of opiate abusers are expected to make a dent in the problem.

While the Ohio Automated Rx Reporting System (OARRS) has been in place since 2006, area doctors have really started to make maximum use of it recently, said Dr. Dan Breece, medical director of emergency medicine at Marietta Memorial Hospital.

“The majority of my physicians and providers, we really started using it more in the last year,” he said.

The last year’s data for opiate prescriptions was not available through the mental health or pharmacy board.

But at least in the emergency room, Breece said he believes opiate prescribing has gone down in the past year.

Ohio’s Opioid Prescribing Guidelines, which were fully adopted in December, are creating a heightened sense of awareness among doctors when it comes to prescribing opiates. Among other things, the guidelines encourage doctors to consult OARRS when seeing patients they deem at risk for opiate addiction.

One way OARRS helps doctors and law enforcement officials is by pointing out patients who are doctor shopping, said Jesse Wimberly, spokesman for the Ohio State Board of Pharmacy.

“The purpose of that is to make sure the person is not currently receiving from multiple prescribers,” he said.

Doctors are required to review OARRS once every 12 weeks if they have been prescribing a patient opiates for that long.

The nature of working in the emergency room and seeing a constant stream of new patients-many with pain issues-means Breece uses it every day.

One reason why opiate prescriptions in the area continue to rise in spite of statewide trends could be the pressure put on the local heroin trade, said Washington County Sheriff Larry Mincks.

“Right now we are doing a pretty major push on heroin dealers, and I can see addicts moving back toward scrips,” he said.

The possible expansion of the availability of a drug that can counteract an opiate overdose is another tool Ohioans might soon have in the battle against opiates.

A bill before Ohio lawmakers would allow prescriptions of naloxone to be written for friends or family members of opiate addicts.

Currently the fatal overdose antidote is available to prescribers and what Breece calls pre-hospital personnel-the medics that staff rescue squads.

Several area volunteer and paid departments already use the drug and Breece said he supports giving it to family members of addicts who would be trained on its use.

Naloxone is commonly injected, but can also be administered as a nasal spray.

Mincks said that while he supports giving people a tool that could save a life, he worries broadened availability of the drug would encourage addicts to continue abuse.

“I don’t want that to give addicts a false sense of security. (They may think) I can use all I want and if anything happens to me all I have to do is have this magic shot,” he said.

The bill would require those prescribed the drug be trained on its use and report administration of the drug to 911.