For many people, the start of a new year is a time of change and new beginnings. Along with our own personal resolutions also comes changes in some of our laws.
As of Jan. 1, 2019, high-risk patients in California who are prescribed opioids from their doctor also receive a prescription for the overdose reversal drug naloxone. The law is designed to improve patient safety and help patients understand the risks associated with opioid use.
Who is at risk for an opioid overdose?
"While there are variable criteria that could establish risk for an opioid overdose, a common example would be if patients are prescribed a high dose of an opioid medication, or if the opioid is combined with certain other medications, these circumstances can create a higher risk," she says. "However, any patient who is prescribed an opioid could potentially overdose."
Understanding potential risk is the first step in understanding the new law and why it's important. Dr. Tribuzio notes that many overdoses occur when medical help may not be available, making an on-hand overdose reversal drug vital to patient safety.
Why should patients have a rescue medication on-hand?
"Time is of the essence in these situations," she says. "If someone has overdosed, naloxone may need to be administered before first responders arrive. It is better to have naloxone at home and understand how and when to use it, in case the situation arises."
The concept of this rescue medication is similar to an EpiPen® and it can reverse dangerous symptoms in an emergency. However, medical attention is still required. Patients, or those who find them in an overdose situation, should call 911 before administering naloxone.
"Many people do not expect an overdose to happen, but the reality is that opioid overdoses are happening in our community and it's essential to be prepared," says Dr. Tribuzio.
According to Kim Allen, registered pharmacist and director of Sharp Rees-Stealy Pharmacy, "If a patient presents at a Sharp Rees-Stealy pharmacy, the pharmacist might recommend they get a prescription for naloxone or even state that if they feel they need it for a family member, they can come to a Sharp Rees-Stealy pharmacy."
Learn more about how to talk with your doctor about pain and effective ways to manage it.
If you have a concern about opioids, talk to your doctor or call Sharp Mesa Vista Hospital at 858-836-8434. You can also speak with a counselor at the San Diego County Access and Crisis Line at 1-888-724-7240.