California Aims to Curb Prescription Drug Abuse with New Bill

By Zachary Siegel 03/31/15

Prescription opioids that are near impossible to crush, chew, snort, and inject are hoped to become the norm. 


In an effort to crackdown on prescription drug abuse, a new bill was brought in front of the California Legislature that encourages prescribers to offer their patients newer prescription opioids that detract drug abusers. These newer medications are called “abuse-deterrent formulations,” making the tablets near impossible to be crushed, chewed, or injected. 

Democratic Assembly member Jim Wood (D-Healdsburg) introduced bill AB 623 with the aim of health insurance providers and doctors to get onboard with prescribing the harder to abuse opioid medications. 

According to the CDC, in 2013, 51.8% of drug overdose deaths in the United States were linked to pharmaceutical drugs. And of the 51.8% of drug overdose deaths, 71.3% involved prescription painkillers. California is now responding with public health measures to reduce such high mortality rates. 

As of now, there are several abuse-deterrent options for opioids that are approved by the FDA. In 2010, Purdue Pharma reformulated the infamous painkiller OxyContin to be abuse-proof. Most recently, Targiniq (oxycodone and naloxone) was approved last year and will soon be available to prescribe. If Targiniq is crushed, snorted, or dissolved into liquid to be injected, the naloxone mixes with oxycodone thereby canceling out the euphoric effects. 

Other such amendments to the Health and Safety Code include but are not limited to 1) patients are to be counseled on the proper disposal and storage for opioids 2) allow prescribers to dull out short supplies of opioids and 3) requires health insurance providers to allow abuse-deterrent opioids as a first option as opposed to the less expensive, easily abused drugs. 

Jim Wood (D) represents an area called the North Coast of California, which includes the San Francisco Bay Area. He is also a practicing dentist and wrote in a statement that, “Tragically, I also saw my share of people attempting … to feed an addiction or pattern of abuse. Narcotic pain medications … provide effective relief for the millions of Americans who suffer from chronic pain. But too easily they are getting into the wrong hands."

Across the country, prescription opioid abuse is garnering much attention and it is likely that more bills of the same will be put forth. However, many critics argue that strict laws on prescription opiates make it harder for legitimate pain patients to receive pain medication and that such restrictions force drug users to resort to illicit opiates like heroin. 

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Zachary Siegel is a freelance journalist specializing in science, health and drug policy. His reporting has also appeared in Slate, The Daily Beast, Salon, Huffington Post, among others. He writes often about addiction, sometimes drawing from his own experience. You can find out more about Zachary on Linkedin or follow him on Twitter.