The Changing Face of the Opioid Epidemic
By David Doolittle

Opioid abuse and overdose deaths continue to rise in the U.S., with more than 46,000 opioid-related deaths in 2017, up from 5,000 in 2000, data show.

But the problem can’t be explained in total deaths alone. The crisis also has changed in character since 2001, new data from the nonprofit National Institute for Health Care Management (NIHCM) Foundation show.

As the charts below show, prescription opioids, heroin, and synthetic opioids all have played unique roles in the growing number of opioid-related deaths.

In Texas, opioid-related deaths have increased from 291 in 1990 to 1,174 in 2015, the last figure for which information is available, according to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.

To help curb the crisis, the 2019 Texas Legislature approved several bills tied to opioid prescriptions, including:

  • House Bill 3284 by Rep. J.D. Sheffield, DO (R-Gatesville), which extended the deadline from September to March 2020 for physicians to check the state’s prescription monitoring , known as PMP Aware, before writing any prescription for opioids, benzodiazepines, barbiturates, or carisoprodol.
  • House Bill 2174 by Rep. John Zerwas, MD (R-Richmond), which established a 10-day limit for opioid prescriptions for acute conditions. The bill as originally filed set a seven-day limit, but Dr. Zerwas accepted the 10-day provision based on physician input. The bill requires electronic prescribing for opioids beginning in 2021 (to coincide with a Medicare requirement) plus two hours of CME for opioid-prescribing. It also generally prohibits prior authorization requirements for medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorder.

Provisions of these laws take effect at different times, so prescribers should be aware of the deadlines and effective dates of each requirement.

You can find more information on electronic prescribing at the Texas Medical Association’s online prescribing resource center, or by contacting TMA's HIT Department at (800) 880-5720 or by email.

You also can contact the TMA Knowledge Center via email or at (800) 880-7955 with more questions.

Last Updated On

September 27, 2019

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David Doolittle

Editor

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Dave Doolittle is editor of Texas Medicine and Texas Medicine Today. Dave grew up in Austin, where he attended culinary school as well as the University of Texas. He spent years covering Central Texas for the Austin American-Statesman newspaper. He is the father of two girls, a proud Longhorn, and an avid motorsports fan.

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