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Understanding Opioid Laws

pill bottle with pills coming out

The prescription drug and opioid epidemic has impacted almost every community in the state of Michigan. Opioids are a class of drugs that include the illegal drug heroin, synthetic opioids such as fentanyl, and pain relievers available legally by prescription, such as oxycodone (OxyContin®), hydrocodone (Vicodin®), codeine, morphine, and many others. 

According to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, from 1999 to 2016, the total number of overdose deaths involving any type of opioid increased by more than 17 times. The need for additional legislation was apparent and a series of bills passed in December of 2017 aimed at ending the epidemic. The idea behind the bills is to make prescription opioids less accessible so there are fewer chances to abuse them. These changes have slowly started to roll out and you may notice some differences when receiving care. Michael Beaulieu, MD and Chief Medical Director at Helen Newberry Joy Hospital states, “At HNJH we are committed to treating various forms of acute and chronic pain. In order to comply with these new regulations, patients may need additional appointments for something that in the past was taken care of with a phone call. As always, our goal is to treat patients in the safest manner possible.” 

Effective June 1, 2018, any patient prescribed opioids will receive specific information on addiction and overdose. Then the patient must sign a consent form that outlines any risks and acknowledges that they understand these implications.

Also, effective June 1, 2018, all licensed prescribers in Michigan will be required to check the Michigan Automated Prescription System (MAPS) when prescribing a controlled substance exceeding a 3-day supply. MAPS is an acronym for the Michigan Automated Prescription System and is the prescription monitoring system used in Michigan. MAPS requirements apply to all patients, regardless of age. 

Effective July 1, 2018 doctors will be prohibited from prescribing more than a seven-day supply of opioid medication for patients in acute pain. Acute pain is defined as the normal, predicted response such as pain from broken bones, bad back, short illnesses, and some surgeries. This new law does not impact patients with chronic pain. 

Doctors have already begun taking steps to reduce the number of opioid prescriptions they write. According to the American Medical Association, between 2013 and 2017, opioid prescriptions decreased 22 percent nationally, and in Michigan, they declined 10.7 percent between 2015 and 2017. 

So, what do you do with unused medications? Keeping expired or leftover prescriptions in the home can lead to accidents, overdoses, or abuse. Over the last decade, prescription drug abuse and accidental death from drug abuse has skyrocketed. In Luce County, a Prescription Drug Drop Box is available at the courthouse in Newberry to dispose of unused medications. To find a Michigan household drug take-back site near you, visit michigan.gov/deqdrugdisposal. If you can’t get to a drug take-back site, you can use the recipe below as a last resort to dispose of expired, unused, or unwanted drugs. Do not dispose of chemotherapy drugs this way. 

Step 1: Mix drugs (do not crush) with dirt, kitty litter or used coffee grounds and add a small amount of water to dissolve any solid medications. 

Step 2: Seal drugs in a plastic bag

Step 3: Place plastic bag in the trash. 

Step 4: Take the prescription container and scratch out personal information, then recycle or throw away.