According to some estimates, more opioids are prescribed for acute pain sufferers than what those patients actually use. In an attempt to curb issues with excessive use, addiction, and abuse related to powerful painkillers, more states are setting prescribing limits. Some of these restrictions also apply to the length of time opioids can be prescribed in certain situations.
Mid-Level Practitioner (MLP) Restrictions
Nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and optometrists are among the mid-level practitioners who have the greatest ability to prescribe opioids. Some of the laws that have been passed in various states apply to both physicians and any MLP who has the same prescribing authority. This widespread ability to prescribe opioids has raised concerns as well. However, many states now have prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMPs) designed to minimize issues with “doctor shopping.”
Restrictions in Over Half of All States
Massachusetts became the first state to limit prescriptions for first-time opioid users to seven days in 2016. Half of all states have since passed similar restrictions for individuals with acute pain seeking pain medications classified as opioids. Today, half of all states now have similar restrictions in place. Arizona, North Carolina, and New Jersey have gone even further by limiting first-time acute pain prescriptions to five days.
Practitioners in some states have also been using limits for acute pain sufferers to restrict prescriptions for patients with chronic pain. For instance, some chronic pain patients in North Carolina have reported being handed a copy of the state’s 2017 Strengthen Opioid Misuse Prevention (STOP) Act in 2017 when their doctors stopped prescribing opioids for them.
Limits Following Surgery
It’s common for patients who have had surgery to need strong painkillers for a brief period of time as they recover. However, some states are also extending opioid restrictions to individuals who’ve just had surgery. Arizona, for example, only allows for a two week supply. In North Carolina, it’s seven days. Florida and Tennessee are among the states limiting post-surgery opioid prescriptions to 3-4 days.
Additional Prescribing Limits
Some states have added additional restrictions that apply to minors since younger people tend to be more likely to develop an addiction to powerful pain meds. Maryland, meanwhile, requires physicians and MLPs to prescribe the lowest possible effective dosage. And Utah requires public employee insurers to have policies in place related to controlled substances.