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#Our Pain: Changes in state law focus on opioids

LAS VEGAS - Tens of thousands of Nevadans who suffer with chronic pain issues will face new challenges after Jan. 1, 2018.

Changes in state law will make it more difficult for doctors to prescribe opioid pain medicine, and will allow pharmacists more power to refuse to fill the prescriptions.

What's likely to happen as a result? Here are two things we can predict with confidence. More people will suffer and more people will die.

It's been proven all across the country when you take away prescription medicine from chronic pain patients, overdose deaths go up, not down. Nevada has already proven this point. State officials have pushed for more restrictions on opioid medications, even though the overwhelming majority of drug overdoses occur in people who are not in pain management programs.

Every year since 2011, prescription opioids have dropped in Nevada. Not coincidentally, during that same period, deaths from heroin have gone up.

People in chronic pain have few choices when their medication is taken away. Most end up suffering in silence and misery. Some end the pain by committing suicide. A few turn to street drugs such as heroin or fentanyl, which are deadly and unpredictable. Experts have seen this pattern everywhere it's been tried.

"They seem to be okay when they are receiving opioids and as their doctors involuntarily take away their medicine that they've been stable on, the patients destabilize and often fall apart, and that can result in suicides or overdoses. They try to compensate by taking multiple other substances either prescribed or not prescribed," said Dr. Stefan Kertesz, Univ. of Alabama, Birmingham School of Medicine.

As many as 90 percent of overdoses involve illegal drugs, or combinations of many substances. Patients in pain management programs are more stable. But doctors  have been forced to cut prescriptions and get rid of pain patients. The results have been tragic. Nationally, overdoses and suicides have gone up as legal prescriptions have been cut.

The opioid crackdown has been pushed by the CDC which never before published even a single paper about chronic pain. It is supported by insurance companies, who save money by not paying for pain management. 

On Saturday, Dec. 30, at 6:30 p.m., you can watch the I-Team special, The Other Side of Opioids. on Channel 8.


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