The Legislation New Jersey Needs Part III: An Opiate Overhaul



The 2014 election season has come and gone, but it is still important for New Jersey residents to maintain their interests in politics in order for positive social change to occur. In order to try and provoke a continued interest, I’ll be providing prompts for potential, yet much needed legislation for the Garden State throughout the rest of November. In the third installation of NjPovertyReality’s Legislation Series, I call for a much needed overhaul to New Jersey’s opiate prescription policy.

In New Jersey, we no longer need to look at the seemingly endless collection of statistics to see our state’s addiction problem. Instead, we can look to our friends and neighbors, people we’ve grown up with, people who have raised us, even our children, and we can see the statistics come to life. Now, in 2014, we do not even need to look far to find an addict.

This reality is not to describe an inadequacy in the will-power of New Jersey’s people. It isn’t like 32,874 New Jersey residents fell weak to peer pressure in 2013. It isn’t like all of those people chose to start a daily regime of oxycodone or heroin, but rather they were prescribed a potentially lethal dose of addiction. New Jersey faces this exponentially growing epidemic because of how often opiate pain killers and muscle relaxers are prescribed in massive amounts, and also because of the ailments they are prescribed for.

For example, you can have your wisdom teeth removed. Boom, oxycodone.  You can fall down the stairs. Boom, percocet. For these types of injuries, the doctors are responsible for taking away the pain. But is it still a best practice to prescribe a drug that is so out in the open for forcing so many of its users into addiction? I do not think so.

I myself experienced how easy it is to receive massive amounts of opiates and muscle relaxers due to one single injury at work. I suffered from a lumbar injury that resulted in an ambulance ride and the worst pain of my life. Indeed, some sort of remedy was in order, but between the medications I received in the hospital and later at the physician’s office, I had been prescribed more than 80 days worth of opiate pills and muscle relaxers. They came in all sorts too, almost so I could pick which drug to become addicted to. There was the ever popular oxycodone, morphine shots in the hospital, tramadol, diazepam, cyclobenzeprene, and percocet. If I hadn’t started physical therapy as soon as I did, who knows, maybe I would have felt the need to resort to the pills for relief, and maybe I would have become an addict. The point is, I never should have been given an 80 day opportunity to have addiction become my reality. (Disclaimer: All of the remaining pills have been properly disposed of and are no longer in my possession)

New Jersey needs to adopt stronger regulations on opiate drugs, maybe even to the point where New Jersey abolishes their prescription. It is a common knowledge situation by which these pills create addictive tendencies. Later on, the addicts of opiate pills likely go bankrupt trying to buy them on the black market after their prescription runs out, or they resort to slowly ending their lives with heroin addiction. Recently, New Jersey has seen a dramatic increase in heroin addicts to the point that Governor Christie was pretty much forced to pass legislation that allows 911 responders and residents to use narcan in order to revive someone from a heroin overdose.

We know what the common denominator is with this epidemic! It’s the pills! So many levels of government have acknowledged it, but no real action has occurred to prevent the need for things such as a heroin task force.  Maybe it is because lawmakers have only been witnesses to the statistical, paper interpretations of the problem. Maybe it is because they have not seen the thousands of suburban children resorting to life in abandoned urban homes just to get high. Maybe it is because the public does not know what our sons and daughters look like, as skin and bones, with blood running down from their puncture wounds. This is New Jersey’s reality, and it’s time to do the following:

1. Ban the prescription of opiate pills in combination with muscle relaxers. 2. Ban the amounts of opiate pills exceeding a 10 day supply (if we can regulate how often the public buys cough syrup, we can regulate the frequency of opiate prescriptions). 3. Demand a non-addictive remedy to temporary pain to be the first prescription.

And, maybe one day, when medicinal marijuana is taken more seriously in New Jersey, maybe number 4 can be the complete abolition of opiate pills.





2 thoughts on “The Legislation New Jersey Needs Part III: An Opiate Overhaul

  1. Opiate usage applies to more than just addicts. Someone that has rheumatoid arthritis, or fibromyalgia for example, may not have the ability to even get out of bed without the use of opiate pain killers. I had taken opiates for almost 2 years for an unresolved neurological condition. And I didn’t become addicted. To ban the prescription of opiate painkillers is unfair. There is a true need for opiates at certain points in time. And I agree that restrictions should be harsher. But the federal government just made pain killers like Vicodin, Lortab, and the like controlled substances, which means that they have quantity limits. No doctor would ever write more than a 10 day supply for opiate pain killers. Christ, you can barely get Ibuprofen 800mg pills following a procedure. The reason that opiates are prescribed first after a serious injury or surgery is because they are effective. In order to have compliant patients, pain levels must be decreased to help establish cause and to develop a treatment plan. And not all addictions stem from opiate use. Drugs like methamphetamine create their own addictions. Cigarettes and alcohol too. While I agree that there is a serious problem with addiction in this state, you need to re-evaluate the ways you are stereotyping opiate users.

    1. Hi Angelica,
      First, thank you for taking the time to comment on my post. Creating a conversation about pressing social issues is the ultimate goal of this blog, and you’ve been my first comment in almost an entire calendar year! Anyways, to the issues. It is true that opiate usage applies to more than just addicts. Following the article and your comment, both you and I are living proof of such a fact. Although it is true that patients of rheumatoid arthritis and fibromayalgia can sometimes benefit from opiate pain killers, it is a practice that is of much debate within medical journals for the same risks that I’ve tried to elicit within this article. As far as a doctor never prescribing more than a ten day supply of opiate pain killers, that’s actually one of the reasons that has influenced me to speak out continuously about this issue, because as I mentioned in the article, I was collectively prescribed 80 days worth of opiate pain killers and muscle relaxers. I can show you my papers later on if you’d like. Also, yes, opiates are effective for treating the initial tidal waves of temporary, yet very serious pain, in order for doctors to better develop a treatment plan. However, within the article I question as to why opiates need to be the first selection in the treatment processes for temporary pain while they hold so many well acknowledged risks of addiction, especially for procedures such as wisdom teeth removal. One goal of this article was to begin a conversation to develop other remedies to treating temporary pain that do not hold addictive tendencies as side effects. It is very true that not all addictions stem from opiate use, which is why I only included the number of opiate addicts who have sought rehab within 2013. The number given in the article, 32,874 is actually just the combined total of persons between two age groups who have sought rehab specifically for opiate addiction in 2013, and this information comes from the hyperlink (a New Jersey State report) within the article. It is within the highlighted word “collection”, and the specific numbers I refer to are located on page 9 after you follow the link. And again, you are correct that cigarettes and alcohol create their own addictions, however they are not prescribed by doctors in order to treat pain. Again, sorry if I’m redundant, but the ultimate goal of this article is to acknowledge the overwhelming evidence of abuse of opiates, and to begin the search for alternative, non-habit forming approaches to treating temporary pain. As far as the last sentence of your feedback goes, it was never my intent to stereotype opiate users in any way, and if I’ve offended you or anyone else who has read this article for that reason, I am sorry. However, I stand behind the message of this article in it’s entirety.

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