Guest Column from State Representative Nan Baker
One of the most important and widespread issues facing Ohio today is the addiction to prescription opioids and pain pills. Over the past handful of years, the General Assembly has been committed to finding solutions to this problem, which is touching communities all corners of our state—rural, urban and everything in between.
What is so important to keep in mind is that this problem is not just being experienced by so-called “drug addicts,” but rather by individuals, including young kids, who make one bad decision that, in some cases, costs them their lives. In 2014, more than 2,400 Ohioans died due to an accidental drug overdose, according to the Ohio Department of Health. Additionally, prescription drug abuse often leads to the abuse of more dangerous substances, such as heroin.
So it is critical that Ohioans do everything they can to educate their children, neighbors and friends about just how serious a problem this has become.
Two years ago, I introduced and passed House Bill 314, legislation that required doctors who prescribed potentially addicting drugs to minors to gather consent from the minors’ parents. We had found that many adults with drug addiction had started with prescribed pain medication. The intention of our legislation was to create a dialogue between doctors, parents and patients on the risks of taking potentially addicting drugs.
Last year, I was proud to support House Bill 4, a piece of legislation that expanded access for naloxone, a drug that has been proven to reverse the effects of an opioid-related overdose and save lives. HB 4 was one of several bills that have been passed and enacted in recent years that I believe have done a lot to help Ohio overcome this tragic problem. But the battle is not over, and neither is our commitment in the Ohio House to fight it.
In January, the Centers for Disease Control released guidelines and recommendations for handling the prescriptions and use of opioids. I am pleased that several of the guidelines contained in the report are already being considered by the Ohio General Assembly, including methods for not overprescribing pain pills. A major component in this fight is the reality that people’s pain subsides without them having to take all of the pills that were prescribed to them. This leads to pills sitting idly in medicine cabinets, during which time they can fall into the hands of children or other potential users.
No solution will be easy. But in the meantime, simply spreading the word about the dangers of drug addiction and its impact on Ohio families can go a long way toward solving the problem.