New Michigan laws regarding opioids go into effect

New Michigan laws regarding opioids go into effect. (WWMT/File)

Prescribed to manage pain, opioids are a common pathway to addiction and for patients who don’t fully understand the addictive power of those medications.

Dr. Anthony Senagore, a surgeon at Borgess Medical Center, said opioids are “a trap.” Starting Friday, a new state law takes effect that will require health care providers to teach patients about the risk of opioid overdose and addiction before writing the initial prescription.

Senagore said, “I fear for the folks who are already addicted, that’s a different issue, but I think this will clearly reduce the risk of future patients becoming addicted.”

The law also requires patients sign a consent form after learning about risks, which include addiction, overdose, and the dangers of mixing those medications with alcohol or any drug that slows the central nervous system.

“It’s not common knowledge to your average person that there’s significant risk of overdose if you combine those medications,” said Joel Smith, manager of substance use disorder services at Southwest Michigan Behavioral Health (SWMBH).

Smith said it's not uncommon to hear about an injured student athlete who undergoes surgery and develops heroin addiction after the prescribed pain pills run out.

Education is power, but that alone, Smith said, may not be enough to stop a person from developing the very powerful disease that is addiction.

“I know that's what the hope is, that it will limit the availability of opioids and therefore decrease the likelihood that someone will become addicted, but time will tell,” Smith said.

SWMBH launched the Live Prevention awareness initiative with the goal to increase education about how to dispose of opioids will decrease access.

“The availability of opioids in households is enormous,” Smith said.

He cited research that shows seven out of 10 adolescents with a prescription drug problem got the medications at home.

The list of topics physicians must cover with patients before prescribing opioids also includes safe disposal of opioids when a patient is no longer using the medication.

Along with more paperwork for physicians, Sengagore said the law also creates a platform for doctors to discuss non-narcotic based treatments to manage pain.

For his patients, Dr. Sengagore often prescribes a baseline of non-narcotics and then uses opiods, only if necessary to better control pain without the risk of addiction.

“If you do that effectively you can really ween a patient off of pain medication very quickly and so the risk of addiction goes way done because they simply don’t have the discomfort that would feed that need for more medication,” Sengagore said.

Also beginning June 1, a new law will require doctors to run a patient’s name through the Michigan Automated Prescription System (MAPS) before writing an opioid prescription. This will let doctors, dentists, and all other prescribers if patients are getting opioid from another physician.

Starting July 1, physicians cannot prescribe more than a seven-day supply for opioids for acute pain.

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