Like some other parts of the country, health workers in Utah are trying to understand how to address epidemic levels of opioid addiction. On Wednesday at the Utah State Capitol, one Representative offered his solution for dealing with the problem.
Republican Representative Raymond Ward is a physician. He recently learned about a nurse in his office who had received several short-term pain medications. Each one, individually, was reasonable, he says.
"It was for pneumonia that she had, it was after she broke some ribs, but in the end, she got addicted and now she’s on the brink of losing her license because it didn’t get paid attention to closely enough," Ward said.
On Wednesday, Ward introduced a bill that he hopes could curb such addiction stories of opioids and narcotics by preventing them at a critical early stage.
"If this is the very first time that a person is receiving narcotics – so they’re not already on narcotic – that very first prescription that they get should not be for more than seven days," he said.
In his proposed bill, having a prescription go for longer than a week would require patients to make a return visit to their doctor. Ward says it would ensure their prescription is accurate and be sure they’re not being given too many drugs.
To prevent a situation like the one that happened to Ward’s colleague, doctors would also have to consult Utah’s Controlled Substance Database, so they’d know if their patient is already getting pain medications for something else.
Ward says this bill would send a message to doctors, pharmacists, and patients to consider the addictive nature of these drugs.
"I think that changes our attitude and it changes how many people we get into this morass."
Ward’s bill will likely be considered by lawmakers when the legislature begins its general session in January.