Tougher Opioid Prescription Laws Take Effect in New Hampshire

By Kelly Burch 01/06/17

The new, stricter legislation aims to put fewer prescription pills on the streets. 

hydrocodone pills on a pink background.

In New Hampshire, tougher opioid prescription laws have taken effect this week, as part of the state’s plan to try to address one of the highest opioid overdose death rates in the country. 

In the Granite State, medical professionals will now have to conduct a patient risk assessment before writing a new prescription. The patient must sign an informed consent form showing that they understand the addiction risk of the drugs that they’re receiving, and the request is then checked against a database compiled by the prescription drug monitoring program.

In addition, the new legislation requires that pain patients be prescribed the lowest effective dose of pain medications, and forbids doctors in emergency rooms, urgent cares and walk-in clinics from writing a pain prescription for longer than seven days. Finally, the law may require patients who are on opioid medications for more than 90 days to undergo random urine analysis designed to ensure they are still benefitting from the drugs, according to NH1 News

Overall, the new legislation has a simple objective: “By putting fewer pills out on the street there’s less chance for diversion and misuse,” Dr. William Goodman, chief medical officer at Catholic Medical Center in Manchester, told WMUR

The prevalence of prescription opioids has been a big issue in New Hampshire, as it has been throughout the country. “We know that—[with] this crisis we’re in now with the opioid epidemic with people suffering addiction and overdoses and so on—we know that looking back, the number of prescriptions has quadrupled since about the year 2000,” Goodman said. 

The New Hampshire program is similar to programs that have been put in place in other states including New York, New Jersey and many more. New Hampshire has had a prescription drug monitoring program since 2012, but the new regulations are aimed to have a bigger effect. 

“What’s being done here has been shown to be effective elsewhere. And we hopefully will have the same success in seeing fewer pills on the street and fewer people suffering from the side effects of opioids,” Goodman said. 

Goodman noted that the legislation also encourages doctors to find alternatives to opioid pills for treating pain and other chronic conditions. 

“Some of the safer and very effective alternatives are often difficult to afford, either because they’re too expensive or health insurance companies don’t support their use.”

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