New Jersey Legislation Declares Opioid Abuse a Public Health Crisis

It is well known to those who have ever been prescribed opioid drugs – which let’s face it likely includes most of us – whether it be for an injury, oral surgery or chronic pain – we are putting ourselves at risk to addiction. We know this because it says so all over the prescription container. TAKE ONLY AS DIRECTED. Just because a doctor has prescribed you opioid medication does not mean it is safe for all of us – especially those who suffer with addiction.

Prescription or not, opioid abuse remains a tragic and prevalent problem across the country. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has taken legislative action to prevent just this.

The Law

According to The Fix, Governor Christie has stated that the new law, which was signed into effect mid-February, “features the most restrictive prescription limit of its kind in the country.” The legislation is aimed to address and curb the looming painkiller abuse in the State of New Jersey and to also provide for additional treatment for substance use disorder. Here’s how:

  • Limit the Quantity and Distribution. The law will place limits on initial opioid prescriptions – such as OxyContin, Percocet and Vicodin – to a five-day supply; with the hope to curb the prevalent painkiller abuse across the state. This limitation does not, however, apply to patients who suffer with cancer, chronic pain or those in “end-of-life care.” Such a limited supply would at the very least make the risk of abuse more difficult.
  • Require Health Insurers to Provide Additional Coverage. According to The Fix, the law also places a requirement on state-regulated health insurers to “cover the first four weeks of inpatient or outpatient treatment for substance use disorder without the need for authorization.” Unfortunately this aspect of the law will only apply to insurance plans regulated by the state, of which only approximately 30% of New Jersey residents are participants in such plans.
  • Hold Medical Professionals Accountable. The law additionally requires medical professionals to take actions to enhance their knowledge as it relates to opioid drugs and the risks associated with the use of same and to educate patients of such risks. Education can go a long way here – we trust our doctors – we assume they are acting in our best interests. How can they be doing that without continually educating themselves and their patients of the risks associated with the use of opioid drugs.

What the Law Doesn’t Address

While the law has certainly addressed multiple levels of checks and balances from the quantities distributed, to additional mandates in connection with state-regulated health insurer and accountability among medical professionals, this may only be half the battle.

According to The Fix, Dr. Scott Woska, a representative of the New Jersey Pain Society, voices concerns on behalf of some medical professionals regarding the limited scope the new law has which does not address the problem as a whole. Dr. Woska states – “Regulating doctors and the prescription process I do not feel would help the societal problem.” While Dr. Woska makes a valid point, is addressing some of the problem something to scoff at?

In Conclusion

Yes, there is a systemic problem related to opioid abuse across the country. Yes, this problem is not limited to the items contained in the new law. But most importantly, yes, the new legislation in New Jersey is combating the problem in a way that many other states are not and hopefully such states will begin to take similar actions.