Guidelines will curb drug abuse

Those who prescribe medication are being urged to use a new set of guidelines adopted in Ohio last week in order to help curb prescription drug abuse in the state.

The guidelines, which include use of a new tool built into Ohio’s online prescription medication monitoring system, are aimed at curbing opiate abuse, which has surpassed vehicle crashes as the leading cause of death in the state.

While medication prescribers are not required to do anything new under the new set of guidelines, Gov. John Kasich and more than 40 groups involved in crafting the guidelines hope they will prompt health care professionals to be much more vigilant about prescribing addictive opiate medications, such as Vicodin, morphine, codeine, Oxycontin, Dilaudid, methadone and Fentanyl.

Prescribers can monitor a patient’s total opiate intake using new and already existing tools in the Ohio Automated Rx Reporting System (OARRS).

“One of the things we’re trying to do is increase that participation rate among doctors (using OARRS),” said Connie Wehrkamp, deputy press secretary for Kasich’s office.

At Quick Care in Marietta, Nurse Practitioner Tony Goocey has been using OARRS and the equivalent West Virginia system for around five years.

“Because of the nature of our practice, anyone can walk in. We use both systems quite frequently,” he said.

“I don’t know if a lot of providers have been using it,” he added.

Among other things, the new guidelines set a daily threshold of opiate intake at a level equivalent to 80 milligrams of morphine.

A new OARRS tool allows doctors to calculate all a patient’s prescriptions, even those from other prescribers, in a morphine equivalent dose (MED). Doctors are asked to step back and reevaluate a patient’s longterm pain management plan when their daily dosages equals that 80 milligram MED.

That’s the equivalent of 16 5-milligram Vicodin tablets every day.

Introduced Oct. 7, Goocey has seen the new calculated MED pop up.

“I haven’t had anybody who hit anything other than a zero morphine equivalent,” he said.

The problem with opiates is that while they are not illegal when prescribed, they are still highly addictive, said Washington County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Mark Warden.

This makes them a target for theft and abuse, he said.

“Opiates have been a huge problem for us…We get our fair share of reports of stolen medication,” he said.

The department also fully investigates reports of stolen medication to prevent cases where people would call in simply to get an incident number to get a refilled prescription.

Recently a man called and asked for a report number for stolen medication, but declined to pursue the matter further when he was informed the sheriff’s office would launch an investigation into the stolen medication, recalled Warden.

“Opiate usage is a slippery slope,” he said.

The 80 mg MED was chosen as a warning point because those prescribed that much medication are three times as likely to unintentionally overdose as those prescribed to 50 mg MED a day, according to Theodore E. Wymyslo, director of the Ohio Department of Health.

Members of Marietta High School’s Students Against Destructive Decisions will make prescription drug abuse an educational highlight as they celebrate Red Ribbon Week next week.

The week is designed to draw attention to the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse among young people, said Cathy Harper, executive director of the Right Path for Washington County.

“One of the things we will be doing is decorating the windows (at Marietta High School) and we’re trying to relate everything to prescription drug abuse. We’ll have drug abuse facts,” she said.

Volunteers with the Right Path will also be helping the Washington County Sheriff’s Office with Prescription Drug Take-Back Day on Oct. 26.

From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. that day, residents can drop off prescriptions, syringes, tylenol, inhalers, and any other medications at one of seven area locations, said Deputy Ryan Reeder.

“No questions asked. We won’t ask you where you got it or who prescribed it. We just take it and dispose of it safely,” he said.

Locations include the Belpre Senior Center, White Oak Pharmacy in Barlow, Fort Frye High School, the Devola Medical Center, Hardware Components in New Matamoras, the Buckeye Hills Area Agency on Aging in Reno, and the corner of Second and Putnam streets in Marietta.