Opinion: Stemming teenage opioid pilfering bill will help curb drug abuse
As the parent of an addict in recovery, I know first-hand how devastating addiction can be to a family. I will never forget the day my daughter broke the news to me that she had an opioid addiction and needed my help beating it.
I thought I knew everything about my daughter. She was a competitive cheerleader and an A student, but on that day in 2007, I learned she was also addicted to heroin.
After learning of my daughter’s battle with addiction, I had tons of questions like, “How did my daughter end up addicted to heroin?” and “Who is selling heroin to high school students?”
It turns out, drug abuse was becoming a big issue in my Fraser neighborhood. In a 12-month period, there were 30 overdoses and nine drug-related deaths in the extended neighborhoods of Fraser High, where my daughter was a student.
People were dying and something needed to be done about it. This led me and a few other parents with children struggling with addiction to start what is now known as Families Against Narcotics (FAN).
FAN is a 501(c)3 nonprofit dedicated to educating communities about narcotic substance abuse and supporting those affected by addiction. We now have 20 chapters across Michigan and one in North Carolina. I serve as FAN’s president.
It’s no secret that today’s teenagers are getting high on prescription pills. What’s not widely known is the opioid epidemic doesn’t start on street corners, but in the family medicine cabinet.
Pilfering, which is sneaking a small number of pills hoping that it will go undetected, is the leading source of youth opioid abuse. Each year, 960,000 children nationwide between the ages of 12 and 17 initiate prescription drug abuse and many children begin using in middle school. Even worse, research shows that 80 percent of heroin addicts start out using prescription opioids.
In April, State Rep. Joe Bellino, R-Monroe, introduced House Bill 5857 – the Stemming Teenage Opioid Pilfering Mi or STOP-MI bill. The bill would update Michigan’s antiquated prescription vial standards and require opioids and other Schedule II drugs be dispensed and stored in locking prescription vials (LPV). These vials will significantly reduce pilfering, save lives and cut millions of dollars in excess health care costs.
The child-resistant prescription vials we currently use are outdated and entirely ineffective when it comes to pilfering. They were originally created in 1970 with a goal of preventing children 5 and younger from getting their hands on aspirin. However, today’s universe of medications is stronger and more addictive. Some have been found to be 80 times stronger than morphine.
Nationally recognized public health organizations like the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health have been calling for improved packaging of these highly addictive drugs for several years. These low-cost, secure LPVs will prevent pilfering and ensure addictive prescription drugs are accessible only to those who need them.
It is estimated that eliminating pilfering would prevent more than 150,000 Michigan teens from initiating abuse, save more than $1 billion in health care costs and return $715 million in lost productivity and criminal justice costs to the state’s economy.
By modernizing the outdated packaging used to dispense and store opioids, this bill will have a tremendous positive impact, saving lives in communities statewide and saving millions of dollars in health care costs.
I am proud to stand in full support of this bill and sincerely hope that legislators across the state will join together to approve it without delay.
We need all hands on deck to make sure HB 5857 becomes law because it will save lives.
Judge Linda Davis is president of Families Against Narcotics.