Colorado Battles Drug Injuries Associated With Opioids

*Update for Colorado Battles Drug Injuries Associated With Prescription Medications from October 2012*

injuries due to opioid addictionThe Unites States continues to be in the center of an opioid overdose epidemic, and Colorado is no stranger to this. In fact, Colorado has the second highest prescription drug abuse rate in the country as of a 2013 report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, opioids (including prescription opioid pain relievers and heroin) killed more than 28,000 people in 2014. Of this, at least half of opioid overdose deaths involved a prescription drug. This August, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services even announced that it would award $53 million to fund 44 states, four tribes and the District of Columbia to help address the opioid epidemic.

Additionally, according to an article from Colorado Public Radio, the number of opioid overdose deaths has increased dramatically over more than a decade. To see this increase, check out CPR’s interactive map that shows the increase from 2002 – 2014 in each county in Colorado. Plus, twelve counties, most of them rural, but also Denver, have some of the highest rates of drug deaths in the country.

To deal with the issue and to help with regulating the use of pain killers, Colorado has a registry system, known as the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP), in place to prevent patients from being overprescribed medications with the potential for abuse and dependency. The PDMP is a “powerful tool for prescribers and dispensers to help reduce prescription drug misuse, abuse and diversion,” and which helps those individuals to make a more informed decision when considering prescribing or dispensing a controlled substance to a patient. Multiple people can access information from the PDMP even including:

  • Law enforcement officers with a valid court order or subpoena;
  • Practitioners and pharmacists in other states treating Colorado patients; and
  • Patients, who can receive a copy of their own information.

The PDMP keeps track of such things as:

  • The date the prescription was dispensed;
  • The name of the patient and the practitioner;
  • The name and amount of the controlled substance;
  • The method of payment;
  • The name of the dispensing pharmacy; and
  • Any other data elements necessary to determine whether a patient is visiting multiple practitioners or pharmacies.

The growing number of Colorado drug injuries being associated with these medications has caused the government to implement changes to the law aimed at educating and treating those who dispense and consume opioid medications. That is why the State created the Colorado Consortium for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention (Consortium) in the fall of 2013 which coordinates the statewide response to this problem of prescription drug abuse and misuse. Accordingly, the mission of the Consortium is to reduce the abuse and misuse of prescription drugs in the State of Colorado through improvements in education, public outreach, research, safe disposal, and treatment.

Additionally, as of 2015, Colorado law requires every practitioner in the state who holds a current registration by the federal drug enforcement administration, and every pharmacist, to register and maintain an account with the PDMP. However, the law doesn’t require them to use their account. According to an article from CPR, it seems that the state’s approach to the PDMP may be working in some respects.  The article mentions that the number of times the system was used from late 2013 to early 2015, when the mandate went into effect, has gone way up. Hopefully, these numbers have continued to stay high since then.

As the opioid epidemic continues to ravage our nation, I felt the need to inform you of the ways our state and country are trying to fight this. After you have been seriously injured in an event like an auto accident, it is quite normal to be prescribed pain killers to help with the pain. Your physician knows best, but I think it is helpful to understand this epidemic and what is being done to ensure that our citizens do not become victims of prescription drug abuses. Furthermore, the Colorado Personal Injury Lawyers with McDivitt Law Firm are hopeful these recent changes will be effective in better protecting the citizens of Colorado from drug injuries associated with opioid pain medications.

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