Jim Schwartz: Maryland Lawmakers Take Important Step in Fight Against Prescription Drug Abuse

Posted by on in Blog
  • Font size: Larger Smaller
  • Hits: 12597
  • Subscribe to this entry
  • Print
  • Report this post

By Jim Schwartz

Chronic pain is a major health problem for millions of people across the United States.  The misuse and abuse of prescription opioids that are prescribed to treat chronic pain is a serious issue nationwide.  In recent years, police officers in Maryland have dedicated increasing amounts of resources to combatting the prescription drug abuse and diversion problem.

Most of us will know at least one person in our lives – a friend, family member or coworker – who will fall victim to addiction.  Commonly prescribed pain medicines such as Vicodin, Percocet, Dilaudid and other similar opiates are extremely addictive in nature.  Unfortunately for a growing number of people, prescription drug abuse can become a gateway to other illicit and highly addictive drugs like heroin, which has turned into a national epidemic.

In 2013, the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene; reported that 316 people died in Maryland from unintentional opioid-related overdoses and 464 people died from unintentional heroin-related drug overdoses.

In response, Maryland lawmakers recently passed legislation that will help in the fight against opioid abuse. SB606/HB887 will help make it more difficult to abuse opioids by improving access to so-called abuse-deterrent formulations (ADFs) of the drugs.  In addition, the legislation will help to ensure these new medicines replace older ones, which are much easier to crush and abuse.

Abuse-deterrent formulations are opioids approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat pain. However, altering them in any way renders them useless.  For example, many abusers crush and snort an opioid tablet, mix it with water and inject it; or even chew it to achieve a high. The new abuse-deterrent technology, however, would help make the abuse of altered or tampered with drugs more difficult.

While drugs with abuse-deterrent properties are not “abuse-proof,” the FDA recognizes and considers the development of opioids that are formulated to deter abuse a high public health priority.  Thus taking; an important step towards balancing the appropriate access to opioids for patients who need them with the importance of reducing misuse and abuse.

There is no silver bullet for the growing problem of opioid abuse. Combatting prescription opioid abuse in our state requires a joint effort from both lawmakers and other advocates. Education and training programs designed to combat prescription abuse are key for all stakeholders such as, law enforcement personnel, health professionals, health care and fraud investigators, treatment professionals and the pharmaceutical industry.

As a police officer for eighteen years spending a majority of my career investigating a multitude of drug crimes, I have witnessed the harmful effects that opiate abuse can have on a person’s life and the people that surround them.  Access to abuse-deterrent formulations is an important tool in the ongoing fight against opiate drug abuse and diversion.

I applaud the Maryland legislators for passing SB606/HB887, which will hopefully save countless lives.

James Schwartz is the National Secretary for the National Association of Drug Diversion Investigators (NADDI) and a Maryland law enforcement officer.
Rate this blog entry:

Maryland’s leading source of aggregated and original news and opinion on government, politics, business and more. Called one of the “nation’s best state-based political blogs” by the Washington Post.