The 2014 election season has come and gone, but it is still important for New Jersey residents to maintain their interests in politics in order for positive social change to occur. In order to try and provoke a continued interest, I’ll be providing prompts for potential, yet much needed legislation for the Garden State throughout the rest of November. In the third installation of NjPovertyReality’s Legislation Series, I call for a much needed overhaul to New Jersey’s opiate prescription policy.
In New Jersey, we no longer need to look at the seemingly endless collection of statistics to see our state’s addiction problem. Instead, we can look to our friends and neighbors, people we’ve grown up with, people who have raised us, even our children, and we can see the statistics come to life. Now, in 2014, we do not even need to look far to find an addict.
This reality is not to describe an inadequacy in the will-power of New Jersey’s people. It isn’t like 32,874 New Jersey residents fell weak to peer pressure in 2013. It isn’t like all of those people chose to start a daily regime of oxycodone or heroin, but rather they were prescribed a potentially lethal dose of addiction. New Jersey faces this exponentially growing epidemic because of how often opiate pain killers and muscle relaxers are prescribed in massive amounts, and also because of the ailments they are prescribed for.
For example, you can have your wisdom teeth removed. Boom, oxycodone. You can fall down the stairs. Boom, percocet. For these types of injuries, the doctors are responsible for taking away the pain. But is it still a best practice to prescribe a drug that is so out in the open for forcing so many of its users into addiction? I do not think so.
I myself experienced how easy it is to receive massive amounts of opiates and muscle relaxers due to one single injury at work. I suffered from a lumbar injury that resulted in an ambulance ride and the worst pain of my life. Indeed, some sort of remedy was in order, but between the medications I received in the hospital and later at the physician’s office, I had been prescribed more than 80 days worth of opiate pills and muscle relaxers. They came in all sorts too, almost so I could pick which drug to become addicted to. There was the ever popular oxycodone, morphine shots in the hospital, tramadol, diazepam, cyclobenzeprene, and percocet. If I hadn’t started physical therapy as soon as I did, who knows, maybe I would have felt the need to resort to the pills for relief, and maybe I would have become an addict. The point is, I never should have been given an 80 day opportunity to have addiction become my reality. (Disclaimer: All of the remaining pills have been properly disposed of and are no longer in my possession)
New Jersey needs to adopt stronger regulations on opiate drugs, maybe even to the point where New Jersey abolishes their prescription. It is a common knowledge situation by which these pills create addictive tendencies. Later on, the addicts of opiate pills likely go bankrupt trying to buy them on the black market after their prescription runs out, or they resort to slowly ending their lives with heroin addiction. Recently, New Jersey has seen a dramatic increase in heroin addicts to the point that Governor Christie was pretty much forced to pass legislation that allows 911 responders and residents to use narcan in order to revive someone from a heroin overdose.
We know what the common denominator is with this epidemic! It’s the pills! So many levels of government have acknowledged it, but no real action has occurred to prevent the need for things such as a heroin task force. Maybe it is because lawmakers have only been witnesses to the statistical, paper interpretations of the problem. Maybe it is because they have not seen the thousands of suburban children resorting to life in abandoned urban homes just to get high. Maybe it is because the public does not know what our sons and daughters look like, as skin and bones, with blood running down from their puncture wounds. This is New Jersey’s reality, and it’s time to do the following:
1. Ban the prescription of opiate pills in combination with muscle relaxers. 2. Ban the amounts of opiate pills exceeding a 10 day supply (if we can regulate how often the public buys cough syrup, we can regulate the frequency of opiate prescriptions). 3. Demand a non-addictive remedy to temporary pain to be the first prescription.
And, maybe one day, when medicinal marijuana is taken more seriously in New Jersey, maybe number 4 can be the complete abolition of opiate pills.