There is no question that over the past decade, doctors have written too many pain pill prescriptions for our region.
In 2012, West Virginia had as many prescriptions as people.
As we now know, millions of those pills were diverted to addiction, which in turn led thousands of drug users to heroin and record overdose deaths. But the number of prescriptions only tells part of the story. The large volume of doses in many of those prescriptions greatly increased the flood of pain pills coming into our region.
Between 2007-2012, the total was about 780 million pills for West Virginia alone, the Charleston Gazette-Mail has reported.
States and medical professionals are working on a number of fronts to limit the number of pain pill prescriptions, but it also makes sense to restrict the volume of pills in those prescriptions.
Last week, both Ohio and Kentucky took steps to do just that.
In Ohio, new restrictions would bar doctors from prescribing more than seven days of narcotic pain pills for adults and no more than five days for minors. The limits would not apply to cancer or hospice patients, and doctors could prescribe larger quantities for patients suffering from acute pain, if they detail specific reasons.
In Kentucky, the state Senate approved a bill to limit pain pill prescriptions to three days. That proposal also includes exceptions for cancer treatments and end-of-life care, as well as provisions for longer prescriptions for specified reasons.
West Virginia should consider prescription limits as well.
A decade ago, medical professionals often did not fully understand the dangers of these popular new pain killers. Over-prescribing ushered in a new era of drug use and addiction, and with the explosion of heroin use, much of the damage cannot be undone. But states should keep the pressure on to limit opioid prescriptions to only the most-needed situations and prevent as few pills as possible from falling into the wrong hands.
— The Herald-Dispatch, West Virginia