(TRENTON) - Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Joseph Lagana, Nancy Pinkin, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Marlene Caride, Ralph Caputo and Benjie Wimberly enlisting the aid of healthcare providers in discussing the dangers of certain opioid medications prior to issuing a prescription to patients who are minors was signed into law on Monday.
"We've seen the devastation the opioid crisis has created in many of our communities," said Lagana (D-Bergen/Passaic). "This discussion needs to be had as early as possible and from as many angles as possible to reach our young people before it's too late."
The new law (formerly bill A-3424) would require health care professionals with prescribing authority to discuss the addiction potential of any opioid drug that is a Schedule II controlled dangerous substance prior to issuing a prescription for the medication to a patient who is under 18 years of age. The prescriber would be required to have this discussion with the patient, along with the patient's parent or guardian, if the patient is not an emancipated minor.
"The battle against opioid addiction needs to be a continued and coordinated one from all aspects of society," said Pinkin (D-Middlesex). "We've passed legislation to empower law enforcement and first responders to aid in the crisis. Now it's time to enlist the aid of doctors to help reinforce the message on the dangers of opioid and other prescription drug addictions."
The prescriber will specifically be required to discuss the risks of developing a physical or psychological dependence on the medication and, if the prescriber deems it appropriate, any alternative treatments that may be available.
"Sadly, sometimes the last person a teenager wants to listen to is their parents," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "So maybe if they hear from professionals, first hand, who have witnessed the devastating ramifications of addiction, perhaps it will be a much-needed dose of reality."
"Teens tend to think they are infallible at that age, which is why many fail to realize how easy it is to become prone to addiction," said Caride (D-Bergen/Passaic). "Hopefully the perspective of a licensed health professional will lend some weight to this conversation."
"The opioid crisis is a frightening and deadly phenomenon that has claimed far too many lives already," said Caputo (D-Essex). "We need the help of physicians to join in this battle. The earlier and more often we can talk to kids about this, the better."
"We need a full court press when it comes to dealing with the opioid crisis," said Wimberly (D-Bergen/Passaic). "If health care professionals join in the conversation along with parents and educators hopefully it will make a difference in the lives of many."
The prescriber will also be required to include a note in the patient's medical record indicating that the discussion took place. The new law does not require the discussion when prescribing medication to patients who are under hospice care.
The measure was approved by the Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee on December 5 and the full Assembly on December 19, 2016, 77-0.