The National Attorneys General Training & Research Institute (NAGTRI) brought together leaders from the medical, legal, law enforcement and community action groups for a day-long symposium to better define the problem of opioid abuse in our state and consider solutions.
Over 300 people from various disciplines convened at the McKimmon Center on the NC State University campus in Raleigh on Aug. 11 to hear from national and local experts on curbing prescription drug and opioid abuse. Attorney General Roy Cooper kicked off the meeting urging participants to leave at the end of the day with a ‘to-do list’ of actions to alleviate the opioid abuse epidemic. He quoted startling statistics including that an estimated 1.9 million Americans today are addicted to opioids and 4 out of 5 heroin users started by using prescription opioids.
“In general, prescription drugs are good. We assume they’re safe,” Cooper said. “But they can be more dangerous than street drugs. Unfortunately, there is easy access to prescription drugs for many reasons including overprescribing, diversion, doctor shopping, kids getting into the family medicine cabinet.”
He outlined several recent positive actions to stem the opioid epidemic including stepped up educational efforts for parents and children, take back programs to safely dispose of leftover drugs, increased use of the Controlled Substance Reporting System (CSRS) to discourage doctor shopping, new abuse deterrent formulations by pharmaceutical companies and the statewide standing order for the opioid antagonist naloxone, which was recently signed into law by Gov. Pat McCrory. He also encouraged attendees to work with the state legislature to expand Medicaid as a method of curbing opioid abuse by extending needed services for those who seeking help for their addiction.
“This is a public safety and public health issue,” he said.
The North Carolina Medical Society (NCMS) has been heavily involved with this issue at the legislature and through the media and in opinion pieces. During the most recent legislative session the NCMS listened when physicians told us the CSRS needed improvements to be truly useful. Thanks in part to our efforts, the General Assembly allocated nearly $1.5 million to make the CSRS easier to check, connect it to the state’s Health Information Exchange and to the controlled substance reporting systems in surrounding states. The original legislation broadly mandated that every time a controlled substance was prescribed the CSRS needed to be consulted – including prior to administering anesthesia before surgery. The NCMS successfully fought to more narrowly focus the law and improve the efficiency of the system.
We continue to stay abreast of the various proposals and programs around opioid prescribing and abuse including by attending sessions like the one put on by NAGTRI this month. Please share your insights and ideas on this important issue by commenting on this blog or by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.