Recovery Advocates Praise New Restriction On Prescriptions

A limit on the amount of pills first-time patients receive got high marks from advocates.

Photo via Shutterstock

Photo via Shutterstock

Recovery advocates visiting Beacon Hill for the ceremonial signing of a landmark law to fight opioid abuse praised the new law for all it offered, but there was one part of it in particular that they were excited to see: the seven-day limit on new opioid prescriptions.

Every recovery advocate Boston spoke with at the State House pointed to the new restriction on prescription drugs as a game changer in the fight against opioid addiction. The new state rules, effective immediately, limit first time patients from being prescribed more than a week’s supply of prescription painkillers. The law also bans children from receiving anything more than a seven-day supply of opioid painkillers until they become adults. The new rules also allow patients to opt out of large doses to avoid ending up with a huge stash of unused pills.

“If patients take those pills as prescribed, they will be addicted at the end of the 30 days they were prescribed. They will be addicts. These prescriptions are being given carelessly and pushed onto the market by big pharma,” said Janise McGrory, a Cape Cod mother who lost her daughter, Liz, to opioids and was actively involved in Governor Charlie Baker’s Opioid Working Group.

McGrory ‘s daughter became an opioid addict during her teenage years when a friend gave her some leftover Oxycontin. From there, it was a steady fall until she died of a heroin overdose in 2011 at 23. If there was a limit on the availability of the pills, there’s a good chance her life could have been different.

“The partial fill part of the law is awesome, because it will limit people from getting 40 pills. Instead, they can get ten and then they don’t have 30 sitting in their cabinet that somebody could take,” said McGrory’s sister, Amy McGrory.

Joanne Peterson of Learning To Cope called the legislation a long time coming.

“We have groups all over the state and if you walk into the groups, most of the parents will tell you their children started with Oxys or Percocet prescriptions. That first prescription can change a life, so rather than having 30 days of pills, having seven days’ worth is a much better approach. A lot of people get addicted by accident. It will make a huge difference. We won’t have college students with a bottle of 30 pills going back to their dorm, not even realizing how dangerous those pills are and leaving [them] somewhere. Now they’ll have seven,” explained Peterson.

Peterson stressed that cutting off the supply of the drug at the start is huge step forward in limiting access to the highly addictive prescription pills.

Charlestown native Jack Kelly knows the scourge of opioids all too well because he was once an addict. A promising hockey player, he suffered a terrible shoulder injury and was prescribed OxyContin to treat the pain. Kelly’s path to addiction was typical.

“I was bored and had an extra supply. Everyone was talking about them, so I was curious and I took them. I was addicted in 3-4 days,” said Kelly.

Eventually he overcame his battle with addiction and has been sober since 2003.

“The seven day limit is the most important part of this bill, because it is an actual preventative tool that, quite frankly, would stop someone like myself from becoming a heroin addict. Typical story: Athlete gets an injury, is prescribed opioid painkillers, becomes an addict. This change can help break that cycle,” said Kelly, who recently created the iRecovery app to help those struggling with addiction.

Matt Ganem, like Kelly, became addict because he tried pills at a young age, but they belonged to a friend who shared them with him.

“How many times do people go to an emergency room and leave with a month, two month’s supply of pain pills and then wonder how they ended up an addict? It’s synthetic heroin. In Europe, they give you some Tylenol. Here? They give you a month’s supply of Vicodin. We’re in such a quick-fix society, no matter what the problem is, they throw a pill at you. I think this is a step in the right direction, but we still have a long way to go,” said Ganem, who’s now a staffer for Banyan Treatment Center.