The amount of opioid prescriptions in the United States has been steadily declining each year since 2010. According to a report recently released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of opioids prescribed varies across the country, with some areas having substantially higher numbers of prescriptions than others. Some county-level characteristics were associated with higher amounts of opioid prescriptions, including: larger percentages of non-Hispanic whites, higher rates of unemployment, lack of insurance or Medicaid enrollment, lower educational attainment, and a higher number of physicians per capita.
Despite efforts to fight the opioid epidemic, the number of opioids prescribed in 2015 was still three times as high as in 1999, according to the CDC report. New Jersey has a prescription monitoring program designed to detect and prevent prescription drug abuse by keeping a database of all transactions for controlled dangerous substances. However, doctors are not required to check the PMP every time they issue an opioid or other potentially addicting drug prescription.
The CDC believes that the problem lies not only in the amount of prescriptions being given but also in the length of those prescriptions. Earlier this year, New Jersey’s governor signed a bill into law that sets a five-day limit on initial opioid prescriptions. The rationale behind the law is that the traditional 30-day prescription is usually too much and may lead patients to develop a dependency on leftover pills.
South Jersey and Addiction
Even though New Jersey as a whole is not one of the states with the highest number of opioid prescriptions, certain areas like South Jersey have among the highest opioid prescription rates in the nation. The CDC compiled a list of New Jersey counties with the highest amount of opioid prescriptions, measured in morphine milligram equivalents (MME), which accounts for the different strengths among opioids. In the list of these 21 New Jersey counties with the highest amount of opioids prescribed in 2015, several South Jersey counties were among the top 10.
Camden County is number one, with a rate of 1230 MME per person, putting it in the highest quartile of counties in the United States. Also in the highest quartile are Cape May County, Gloucester County, Burlington County, Cumberland County and Atlantic County, which are respectively second, third, fourth fifth and sixth on the list. Salem County had a rate of 950 MME per person and Ocean County had a rate of 900 MME per person, putting them in the second-highest quartile of counties in the United States and landing them in seventh and eighth place on the list.
Opioid over-prescription can lead to overdose and fatal injury. Doctors have a duty to be cautious when prescribing dangerous prescription drugs. For potentially addictive medications such as opioids, doctors should consider alternative treatment and weigh the risks and benefits of each prescription. If a doctor was negligent in prescribing opioids, they may be liable for a patient’s injuries.
New Jersey Opioid Lawyers at Eichen Crutchlow Zaslow & McElroy, LLP Represent Victims of Opioid Over-PrescriptionIf you or a loved one suffered serious injury or financial damages as a result of a health care provider’s negligence, contact an experienced New Jersey opioid lawyer at Eichen Crutchlow Zaslow & McElroy, LLP. Our offices are located in Edison, Red Bank and Toms River, New Jersey, and we represent clients throughout the state. Our legal team is dedicated to handling complex litigation matters and we have recovered some of the most significant awards in New Jersey. Contact us online or call us at 732-777-0100 to arrange a free consultation.