There’s no doubt that there have been many critical issues facing our General Assembly this session.   The budget, the casino debate, transportation infrastructure—the list goes on and on. But while there’s still time, the House of Representatives needs to take action on a piece of legislation that would be a step forward in solving one of the most dire issues facing both our small towns and big cities — prescription drug abuse.

Just this weekend, the Senate passed SB 21—a bill that seeks to tackle the prescription drug abuse problem by ensuring patients who need pain medication have access to new technologically advanced medications that cannot be easily tampered with by potential abusers.

Those looking for a quick high seek medications intended to relieve pain.  They’re stolen from medicine cabinets, sold on the street, crushed and pulverized, in order to be snorted or liquefied for injection.  By doing so, the slow-release properties of the medications for pain relief are turned into a quick and powerful high.

But new technology developed by pharmaceutical companies has made that manipulation nearly impossible, and therefore reduces the risk of abuse.  These new medications, abuse-deterrent opioids or ADOs, are one part of the solution to stopping the prescription drug abuse epidemic.

But, ADOs can only be a part of the solution if they’re available and affordable to those who need them for legitimate pain management.

SB21 will ensure insurance companies cover ADO medications and won’t force patients to take a traditional opioid if an ADO is available.

Most of those addicted to opiates do not want to bother with a pill that slowly relieves pain over an extended period of time — they want to get really high, really fast.  Similarly, no addict is going to purchase a pill that can’t be altered to achieve that high. They just won’t do it.   ADOs help achieve that.

No man or woman in my profession would say they have a solution to the problem of prescription drug abuse.  Any one of them would say give us anything that can be of some help.  That is what SB 21 is — it will help.  It will not solve the entire problem of prescription drug abuse in our state.  It will solve a small piece of the problem.  If it protects one person from becoming addicted, that is enough.

I urge lawmakers to ensure patients have access to these new, safer ADO medications because they are expensive, and are regarded as favorable and necessary by passing SB 21 this week, and sending the bill to Gov. Malloy for his signature.

Jack Malone is president and executive director of the Southeastern Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependence.

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