SACRAMENTO — My Patient Rights and the California Chronic Care Coalition are reminding Californians to make sure that they and their family members are aware of a new law that takes another step in addressing the opioid crisis. This law states that prescribers of pain-relieving opioids must also offer a prescription for the opioid-overdose reversal drug, naloxone, to high-risk patients. AB 2760 was passed overwhelmingly by the California Legislature and signed into law in September 2018 by Gov. Edmund G. Brown, Jr.
Accidental opioid overdoses account for about 80 percent of all opioid emergencies and 83 percent of prescription opioid-related deaths are unintended or accidental. While anyone taking opioids is at potential risk for an overdose, there are certain high-level, at-risk groups that are susceptible, so being prepared with the overdose reversal drug, naloxone, in close proximity is essential.
This problem has become so acute that the U.S. Surgeon General issued its first advisory in 13 years recommending emergency treatments like naloxone – which is so important to saving lives – be available for consumer use.
“For patients with chronic illness, pain relieving opioids are a lifeline but the risk of an overdose increases the more you take to combat the pain,” said Liz Helms, president and CEO of the California Chronic Care Coalition. “Requiring naloxone to be offered at the same time as prescribing an opioid pain medication will go a long way in preventing accidental overdoses and needless deaths. And since many caregivers are family members, it is important to make them aware that this potentially life-saving emergency treatment will be more readily available when opioids are prescribed.”
There are many reasons for accidental opioid overdose emergencies and these emergencies can occur even when opioids are used as directed. Those at high risk for accidental opioid overdose include:
- Those who take moderate to high doses of prescription opioids, usually over 90 morphine milligram equivalents a day
- Those who consume certain other sedating medications or alcohol, particularly benzodiazepines
- Those who have a history of substance abuse or previous overdose
- Those who have children, other family, friends and loved ones who have access to unlocked or unsecured prescription opioids
In 2016, more than 214 million prescriptions were written and filled for opioids. With this many patients taking opioids for medical conditions and medical procedures, it’s important to have the discussion and prepare for potential overdoses.
“Naloxone is a tool that can immediately save lives. And I hope this new law will provide an opportunity for discussion of the potential for accidental opioid overdose and how to prevent it,” said Assemblymember Jim Wood (D-Santa Rosa), author of AB 2760.
Anyone who uses opioids for pain control is at risk for an opioid overdose emergency. Now that naloxone co-prescription for high risk individuals is the law in California, make sure you and your families are prepared for the unexpected by talking about opioids, the potential for overdose even when used correctly, having naloxone with you, and recognizing the signs of overdose:
- Slow or shallow breathing
- Slowed heartbeat and weak pulse
- A loss of consciousness
- Pale, blue or cold skin
Knowing the risks, recognizing the signs and having naloxone on-hand will go a long way in potentially saving a life from accidental opioid overdose.