Three new Georgia laws pass to combat the opioid epidemic

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF)– Opioid addiction is a nationwide crises that continues to grow.

Georgia lawmakers, though, are working to end the epidemic.

Governor Nathan Deal signed three pieces of legislation earlier this month that could help.

Prescription opioids, better known as pain pills, were created to alleviate extreme pain. Little did we know, something meant for good can have extreme consequences for some people.

Two doctors break down that facts of opioid abuse and what we need to combat it.

“We didn’t recognize at the time how addictive some of these substances are that meant well. We love getting people out of pain, especially if it’s a temporary thing,” Dr. Mark Newton said. He works in the emergency room at Doctor’s Hospital, and is also a Georgia State Representative.

He said opioid overdose deaths have quadrupled since 2000.

“Opioids kill more than cocaine, ecstasy, crack, methamphetamine together,” Dr. Newton said.

He said three new laws recently signed by Governor Nathan Deal are a step in the right direction. The first law makes Narcan, an emergency treatment for opioid overdose, available to everyone– not just Paramedics.
The second piece of legislation calls for tighter regulations on addiction treatment centers. The third law requires physicians to better research patient prescription history.

“We did pass a requirement for physicians when they’re prescribing strong medications for pain, which is important, but at the same time that we would check a database first to make sure they haven’t been getting prescriptions from too many different sources,” Dr. Newton said.

Dr. William Jacobs, Chief of Addiction at G.R.U., said prescription pain pills are just the start.

“85% of the people that I see who are using heroin started on prescription opioids, so prescription opioids are the gateway to heroin,” Dr. Jacobs said.

He explained when addicts can no longer get opioids from a prescriber, they go to the street.
Dr. Jacobs said if a person is using 3-400 milligrams of oxycodone a day to stay out of withdrawals, it can cost up to $400.

“Drug dealers know this. They have a supply of heroin as well. They say, ‘Here some heroine. You can have 6 hits of heroine for what one hit of oxycodone will cost you. What do you want to do?” Dr. Jacobs said.

He said it’s crucial family members who know a loved one struggling with opioid addiction can obtain the now legal Narcan for emergencies and potentially save a life.

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