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Opioid Epidemic

In light of rampant overdoses, an Oregon Senate bill aims to limit access to opiates in the state


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has officially declared an opioid epidemic in the United States—and Oregon is definitely not immune. In an attempt to fight the epidemic, the Oregon state senate will be voting on Senate Bill 270 on April 18—a bill introduced by the Committee on Health Care for Oregon Department of Justice.

The bill is aimed at limiting the number of pills a patient can receive on their initial prescription fill. The bill reads as follows: "prohibits issuing initial prescriptions for opiates to adults for outpatient use in quantity exceeding seven-day supply. The bill would also prohibit issuing initial and refill prescriptions for opiates to minors for outpatient use in quantity exceeding seven-day supply."

Sen. Tim Knopp, who serves on the Senate Committee on Health Care, feels the bill is necessary, he says, "because Oregon has an opiate overdose problem."

According to a study conducted by the Oregon Health Authority on Drug overdose deaths, hospitalizations, abuse and dependency among Oregonians, Knopp seems to be on track. The study stated that, "In 2012 Oregon had 164 unintentional and undetermined prescription opioid overdose deaths—three times higher than the rate in 2000." To make matters worse, the study states that "280 million pills are prescribed in Oregon annually. That is more than any other state in the nation and is the equivalent to 70 pills for every man, woman and child in Oregon per year." 

According to the CDC: "The majority of drug overdose deaths (more than six out of 10) involve an opioid. Since 1999, the number of overdose deaths involving opioids (including prescription opioids and heroin) quadrupled. From 2000 to 2015 more than half a million people died from drug overdoses." The CDC also states, "that the most common drugs involved in prescription opioid overdose deaths include: methadone, oxycodone and hydrocodone.

Dwight Holton, CEO of Lines For Life, a nonprofit dedicated to substance abuse and suicide prevention, said in an article in "OHSU News," "First we need to have less pills." Bill de Blasio, Governor of New York, likewise believes that an overabundance of pills is the problem, but in an article in "The Observer," he went a step further by saying the root of the overabundance is the drug makers. "The overuse of these drugs was planned by the pharmaceutical industry and the results have been devastating. And now this is a problem being felt in households all over this city and all over this country."

Still, bills such as Senate Bill 270 won't solve this problem alone. During an interview with Portland's KOIN 6, DEA Special Agent in Charge in Oregon, Cam B. Strahm stated that, "enforcement alone, treatment alone and prevention alone is not the solution. You have to put all three together." Holton stated that defeating this opioid crisis in Oregon will also take, "increased access to treatment, better disposal options for unused pills and stronger education." 

Oregon leaders, including Bend's Sen. Knopp, say they are "working in a bipartisan way to make sure we have legislation that works."

The bill comes up for a vote in the state Senate April 18—the last day that initial bills can be voted upon this session. If you have an opinion on the bill, email the members of the Senate Committee On Health Care. Interested parties can also visit the Oregon Legislative Information website to learn of scheduled events such as committee meetings or floor sessions.

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