Ohio Passes Bill Aimed to Fight Opioid Addiction

By Kelly Burch 12/19/16

Lawmakers hope that the measures will prevent the unlawful spread of prescription opioids. 

Ohio state flag and gavel.

Ohio has some of the highest rates of opioid-related overdose deaths in the country, according to a recent report. Now the state is trying to fight back with new legislation that requires pharmacy technicians to register with the state and includes other measures to crack down on opioid addiction. 

The bill was passed earlier this month with strong bipartisan support, and Ohio Governor John Kasich is expected to sign it soon

The legislation requires pharmacy technicians (people who work under a pharmacist) to register with the state and undergo background checks. It also requires doctors, veterinarians, dentists and others who possess controlled substances to get a license from Ohio’s pharmacy board. For consumers, there will be new limits on how long an opioid prescription can run for. 

“I think that this bill, at the end of the day, will be another arrow in the quiver as we begin to get a hold of the heroin in our state,” Ohio Republican State Rep. Robert Sprague told WKSU public radio.

The bill also addresses the need to help people who are already hooked on opioids by increasing access to naloxone, the overdose reversal drug, according to WKSU. 

Ohio leads the nation in opioid overdoses. In fact, 1 in 9 heroin-related deaths in the country occurs in Ohio, according to the Columbus Dispatch.

Earlier this year the epidemic in the state got much worse, when high-potency synthetic opioids like carfentanil entered the heroin supply. In a 10-day period in July, carfentanil was tied to 91 overdoses and eight deaths in Akron. In September, the severity of the crisis in Ohio peaked again, when police in Columbus responded to 27 overdoses in 24 hours. 

“Opiate addiction is ravaging our city,” Columbus Mayor Andrew J. Ginther said at the time. “The Columbus Divisions of Fire, Police and Public Health are working hard to respond to the current wave of overdoses caused by a particularly strong version of the drug.”

The medical examiner for Hamilton County, which includes Cincinnati, speculated that Ohio has been a testing ground for new, more powerful opioids. "The way this was carried out in our communities in the region brought up a lot of fears ... that our community was being used as a test tube," said Hamilton County Coroner Dr. Lakshmi Sammarco.

Although there is still lots of work to be done to fight addiction in Ohio, proponents of the bill hope that the tighter pharmaceutical regulations will help to turn the tide.  

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.