Since the opioid crisis began to grip New Jersey and our nation, one of the crucial goals in stemming the tide of addiction was addressing the overprescribing of pain medication.
The good news is that the number of opioid prescriptions decreased nationwide from 2010 to 2015. The bad news is that doctors gave out longer prescriptions and the average strength of prescriptions was still high, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report released last week.
The report also revealed that the number of prescriptions in parts of New Jersey remained high. An NJ.com report detailed the disparity in prescriptions written across the state’s 21 counties.
While the rate of prescriptions per person dropped in 10 counties from 2010 to 2015, it increased in nine counties and did not change in two others, the report said. The totals are measured in “morphine milligram equivalents,” or MME, “which measures the total dosage of opioids while correcting for differing strengths among different drugs.”
Hudson County checked in with a rate of 370 MME per person, the lowest of any county in the state. At the top of the list, Camden County had an MME of 1,230 per person, which actually represented a 9 percent drop from 2010, according to the report.
The Partnership has actively worked to reduce overprescribing by the medical community through its Do No Harm Symposium Series. The Do No Harm symposiums provide information to doctors and health systems to help them make sound decisions for patients and better understand the link between opioid prescribing and rising heroin abuse. New legislation passed by New Jersey lawmakers earlier this year limits the length of initial opioid prescriptions to five days.
The Partnership is also organizing the second annual Knock Out Opioid Abuse Day in New Jersey on October 6th. The statewide single-day initiative will mobilize families, the prevention and treatment communities, community leaders and concerned citizens to raise awareness of potential dependency on prescribed pain medicine and its link to heroin abuse rates in the state. Visit drugfreenj.org/knockoutvolunteers to volunteer.
With the new law in place and the highlighting of further education on prescribing practices, it is our hope that the number of opioid prescriptions decreases in every New Jersey county in the next report.
One other key takeaway from the report is that the disparity of the prescription totals between counties shows the opioid crisis — while existing in every part of the state — does not look the same everywhere. That is why it is so important that our Knock Out Opioid Abuse Town Hall Series visits every county in the state, so that we can learn the scope and factors of the opioid crisis from people in different communities.
Source: The Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey