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Massachusetts is first to sign off on statewide opioid legislation

Posted on 05-11-16 in Advocacy, Medicine, Substance Abuse

Massachusetts is first to sign off on statewide opioid legislation

“By the sword we seek peace, but peace only under liberty.”

It’s the state motto, translated from Latin. If Massachusetts’ sword is legislation, the state likely defines “peace” as healthful harmony and “liberty” as the freedom to live long, fulfilling lives. The state that pioneered legalizing gay marriage has recently become the first to pen sweeping legislation to cut into the opioid epidemic.

Gov. Charlie Baker and Sen. Jennifer Flanagan among other proponents, orchestrated H 4056 with four overarching points to curb substance abuse in the state. Yet all the bill’s offerings hinge on individual participation, bringing to question how effective it will actually be.

The bill’s key points

  • Mandates all Massachusetts hospitals that treat a patient for overdose to complete a substance abuse evaluation within 24 hours and provide practical treatment options before discharge.
  • Limits first-time adult prescriptions and all minors’ prescriptions to just a week’s supply at a time.
  • Enables the patient to request a fraction of the standard dosage from the doctor or pharmacist.
  • Implements on campus, standardized, annual and confidential verbal screenings for substance use disorders in middle and high school students. This, so long as individual school districts and parents within participating districts opt-in.

Those in favor still raise questions

Raymond Tamasi is an industry expert who has served the Baker administration, proffering nearly three dozen recommendations for initiatives through a task force that counsels the governor. He says the new law’s hospital emergency services mandate “engages the hospitals in a more meaningful way,” yet warns he’s “not sure it’s going to produce tons of people saying, ‘I want to go to treatment.’”

Of the second measure of the bill, Tamasi says reducing prescriptions will truncate excesses that lead to addiction and prescription fraud. “It gets us away from the situation where a patient goes in for a tooth extraction and ends up with a month’s worth of Vicodin.”

Flanagan pushed for the school screening limb of the bill. “I really think that kids can have a conversation and be screened so that we can prevent addiction from happening.”

But again, the law leans on participation from the school district and the parents as well as the willingness and trust of the student to be forthcoming.

Can the screening do more harm?

According to two separate studies from the National Institutes of Health, parents who mistakenly believe that their children abuse substances unwittingly encourage their drug-free kids to use in the future.

In a study of 115 seventh-graders and their moms and dads, parents who incorrectly concluded their kids drank alcohol initiated a self-fulfilling prophecy. On the other hand, parents who mistakenly believed their kids abstained had no bearing on truncating their children’s behavior.

In a similar marijuana-related analysis, the egg again came before the chicken. Marijuana-abstinent youth were more than four times likelier to start partaking if their parents thought they used marijuana. Conversely, teens who used were significantly more likely to quit if their parents’ believed they were clean.

The Sovereign Health Group treats addictions, mental health issues, eating disorders and behavioral problems. We create a fortress around the individual to detoxify, rehabilitate and create a new life, with creative methods to heal and maintain. For more details on what we offer call our 24/7 helpline.

About the author

Sovereign Health Group staff writer Kristin Currin-Sheehan is a mindful spirit swimming in metaphysical pools with faith as her compass. Her cover: a 30s-something Cinderella breadwinner of an all-sport blended family. Her repertoire includes writing poetry, lifestyle articles and TV news; editing, radio production and on-camera reporting. For more information and other inquiries about this media, contact the author at