The Unintended Consequences of the Opioid Epidemic in SC
You’ve had surgery – you didn’t have a choice and you’ve done everything the doctors recommended, and now you’re in horrible pain.
Who would you rather be in charge of helping you find relief – a medical doctor or a politician?
This is just one of the many painful questions being raised by the nationwide frenzy over opioid abuse and addiction.
People in Myrtle Beach and across the country are starting to feel the effects of the crackdown on prescription drug use – people who need pain management are suffering as their doctors withhold prescriptions, and the doctors who help patients with pain management suddenly feel that they are in danger of being arrested for doing their job…
What Are the Feds Doing About Opioid Addiction?
In an effort to fight what many have called an opioid addiction crisis, federal and state officials are targeting doctors who prescribe pain medications and patients who take them.
Although the new policies are certainly based on good intentions, some worry that new measures could have a chilling effect on responsible medical professionals and could harm law-abiding patients.
U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) officials announced this month that they have begun using data from Medicare, Medicaid, and local coroner reports to determine which doctors are prescribing the most opioids, how far patients travel to get them, and how many patients have died within 60 days of receiving a prescription.
DOJ officials say this data is the latest tool being used by the Department’s Opioid Fraud and Abuse Detection Unit, which was established last summer to increase the number of prosecutions relating to opioid prescriptions.
What Is South Carolina Doing About Opioid Addiction?
South Carolina officials have taken their own measures in the fight over opioids.
S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster in December declared a public health emergency and formed a special team to deal with the crisis.
McMaster also issued two executive orders, one that limits initial opioid prescriptions to five days for post-surgery pain for Medicaid patients, and another that directs the state employee benefits system to include similar limitations on its health plans. And the governor is urging state legislators to make these kinds of limits the law for all SC residents.
What Are the Unintended Consequences?
Statistics show that the dangers of opioid addiction are real – the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that sales of prescription drugs have quadrupled since 1999, and more than 200,000 Americans have died of opioid overdoses during that time.
But history shows that anytime massive law enforcement measures are driven by high emotions, innocent people often get caught up in the wide legal nets that are cast.
Some commit suicide because they cannot access the care they need, others lash out at their doctors, and many turn to other legal or illegal painkillers like heroin or alcohol. Many more just suffer with debilitating pain.
Considering the new rules and the zeal with which the opioid problem is being addressed, medical professionals with the authority to prescribe opioids need to proceed with care. They should be sure to explore alternatives and discuss and document the benefits and dangers of these drugs with patients. They should also aim for the lowest dose possible.
Patients should be aware of the changing laws and fill their prescriptions in simple, clear ways to avoid any accusations of “doctor shopping.”
SC Drug Defense Lawyers in Myrtle Beach
If you have been charged with possession or distribution of prescription drugs in SC, or if you are a doctor who needs advice about how the new laws and policies will affect your practice, schedule a free consultation to discuss the facts of your case with a Myrtle Beach criminal defense attorney by calling (843) 488-5000 or filling out our online form.
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