The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

World, nation, state

October 19, 2013

State sees surge in pill-related overdoses

ASHTABULA — Enough prescription pain pills were legally dispensed last year for every man, woman and child in Ohio to have almost 70 doses each.

And while the state has cracked down on pill mills — doctors who prescribe mass amounts of addictive pain pills — 1,765 people died from opioid overdoses in 2011, a 440 percent increase from 1999, according to the Ohio Department of Health.

State Rep. Robert Sprague, R-Findlay, and members of a committee studying prescription-drug addiction want to make a change before those numbers get any higher.

“Behind every overdose death there are thousands more who are addicted to opioids that leave in their wake devastated parents, abandoned children and drug-infested communities,” said Sprague, committee chairman.

The committee introduced six ideas for possible bills yesterday:

• Adopt more-stringent standards for prescribing opiates for pain.

• Allow 30-day prescriptions to be filled only in weekly increments.

• Prevent minors from being prescribed narcotics without their parents’ knowledge and consent.

• Mandate the use of the Ohio Automated Rx Reporting System, a prescription-reporting software voluntarily used by doctors and pharmacists.

• Require a photo I.D. to pick up a narcotics prescription at the pharmacy.

• Create more integration between treatments, detox programs, peer support and funding.

The House recently passed two bills, one that involved a syringe-exchange program and another that encourages the use of Naloxone to reverse opioid overdose. The bill allows more people to prescribe, dispense and administer the drug that is used to counteract life-threatening depression of the central nervous system and respiratory system during an overdose.

“We have made great strides combating the problem, but our work is far from finished,” said Rep. Terry Johnson, R-McDermott. Although some might question taxpayer dollars going to help addicts, Rep. Ryan Smith, R-Bidwell, wants the public to know the cost currently incurred is far greater.

“The cost to our jails, the cost to our municipal courts, the cost to the deterioration of the families in our districts is unbelievable. Employers will tell you how difficult it is to find employable people that can pass a drug test,” he said, adding that people need to understand the enormous size of the epidemic and the response needed to combat it.

“I think this is the first step in a long effort to make a difference in our communities,” he said.

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