Legislature takes steps to address opioid crisis

Alaska is facing a public health emergency due to opioid-based pain killers. Alaskans are dying and families are suffering. I joined other lawmakers to take action this past legislative session in our state. The legislature addressed the growing opioid epidemic by extending the opioid epidemic disaster declaration giving Alaska’s Chief Medical Officer the authority to proceed with a statewide response plan. We also ensured permission to distribute the overdose-reversing drug naloxone.

One of the contributing factors to this public emergency is overprescribing of these highly addictive drugs. Some practitioners were prescribing thirty days of opioids for pain relief. At three pills per day, many people were becoming dependent by the time they finished their first prescription. Overprescribing also leads to unused opioids in the home, potentially available for abuse by others. A recent study of over 800 post-operative patients found that at least two-thirds had leftover opioids and over half of the prescribed pills went unused. Fewer than 10% of patients followed proper narcotic disposal procedures.

This session, three key pieces of legislation passed the Alaska Legislature to address the overprescribing of opioids in our state. First, doctors generally must limit initial opioid prescriptions to no more than a 7-day supply, with exceptions. Second, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises that over 80% of acute pain cases can be handled within three days. Patients can now request to only partially fill their opioid prescription, without voiding the remainder of the prescription in case it is needed later. Third, patients can now fill out a Voluntary Nonopioid Directive, making it clear they do not want an opioid. The advance directive can be filed with the patient’s local hospital and primary care provider. This is particularly helpful for those patients with a past addiction and dependency history.

It’s important to note that legislation passed this session does not restrict opioid use for chronic pain. Both the Alaska Department of Health and Social Service and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provide guidelines for doctors prescribing opioids for chronic pain such as alternative non-opioid therapy, lower dosages, and increased monitoring of patients.

I believe the action taken this session gives people useful tools to avoid unintended addiction. Our action limits the amount of opioids in a person’s home where they could fall into the hands of children. Partial fulfillment gives patients choices and limiting initial prescriptions to 7-days will also reduce patient medication costs. Legislation strengthened reporting and education requirements for pharmacists and healthcare providers. It also requires the controlled substance prescription database be updated daily, instead of weekly, and requires the database be checked before prescribing to avoid opioid abuse.

Anyone wanting more information on the positive steps taken this past session to address the ongoing opioid epidemic can contact my office at 235-2921. For information on opioid addiction or to become part of the local solution to this epidemic, please email the Southern Kenai Peninsula Opioid Task Force at SKPOpioidTaskForce@gmail.com. For programs and information in other areas of the state call the Alaska Opioid Task Force at 907-465-8920.

Paul Seaton represents District 31 in the Alaska House of Representatives.

More in Opinion

This image available under the Creative Commons license shows the outline of the state of Alaska filled with the pattern of the state flag.
Opinion: Bringing broadband to all Alaskans

Too many Alaskans face barriers accessing the internet.

This photo shows a stack of pocket constitutions at the Alaska State Capitol. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: Join us in voting against a constitutional convention

Voting no on a constitutional convention is vital to the well-being and stability of our state.

Michael O’Meara.
Point of View: Tell BOEM how you feel

It seems like BOEM should prioritize input from people most likely to be affected if leases are sold

The State of Alaska, Department of Administration, Office of Information Technology webpage. (Screenshot/oit.alaska.gov)
Cloud migration now underway will strengthen, enhance State IT systems

At the most basic level, cloud computing is the delivery of computing services remotely

Jessica Cook, left, and Les Gara stand in The Peninsula Clarion’s offices on Thursday, June 30, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Alaska Voices: Better schools for a better economy

We need leaders who care about our children’s futures

A resident casts their vote in the regular municipal election Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2020, at the Kenai Peninsula Fairgrounds in Ninilchik, Alaska. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)
Voices of the Peninsula: This is our borough and city

By Therese Lewandowski Another election already? Yes! This is our local elections… Continue reading

The Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation building is seen in Juneau, Alaska, in March 2022. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)
Opinion: APFC keeps steady keel during turbulent year

FY2022 was a challenging year for all investors

Homer Foundation
Point of View: Nonprofits provide essential services not provided by cities

By our count, nonprofits provide more than 100 jobs to our communities

t
Opinion: Don’t get scammed like I nearly did

I should have just turned off the computer.

Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce campaigns for governor as he walks in the 65th annual Soldotna Progress Days Parade on Saturday, July 23, 2022 in Soldotna, Alaska. Pierce resigned as borough mayor effective Sept. 30, 2022, to focus on his gubernatorial campaign. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Voices of the Peninsula: ‘It has been an honor to serve’

Borough mayor gives send-off ahead of departure

Gov. Mike Dunleavy announces Friday, July 15, 2022, that 2022 most PFD payments will be distributed on Sept. 20, 2022. (Screenshot)
Opinion: A historic PFD still leaves work to be done

It is important to remember the dividend is not, and has never been, a welfare payment