A new Michigan state law will restrict the amount of opioids that doctors are allowed to prescribe patients suffering from acute pain.

As of July 1, 2018 doctors in Michigan will be prohibited from prescribing more than a seven-day supply of opioid medication for patients diagnosed with acute pain. This pain typically results from broken bones, back injury, short term illnesses and surgery. Under the new law, doctors will not be allowed to write refills for opioid pain medications until the seven-day period has elapsed.

The law is aimed at making prescription opioids less accessible and is an important step in curtailing the opioid abuse epidemic, by forcing physicians to re-evaluate patients pain prior to extending opioid treatment. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, nearly 80 percent of Americans using heroin reported misusing prescription opioids prior to using heroin.

According to anesthesiologist and pain management expert Dr. Nabil Sibai, “Most patients with acute pain don’t need to be on opioid medications for longer than 7 days. There’s a lot of data out there that shows that for most, at least 90 percent of acute pain episodes, (patients) are only going to require three to seven days of opioids.”

The new law does not impact patients with chronic pain even though their are many chronic pain syndromes where opioids are not recommended. In 2014, The American Academy of Neurology  released their position on the use of opioids for certain chronic pain conditions stating that the risk of death, overdose, addiction or serious side effects with prescription opioids outweigh the benefits in chronic, non-cancer conditions such as headache, fibromyalgia and chronic low back pain.

Doctors have already been reducing the number of opioid prescriptions they write. Between 2013 and 2017, opioid prescriptions decreased 22 percent nationally, according to the American Medical Association.

In Michigan, as the use of alternative pain therapies have increased, the number of opioids prescribed has declined 10.7 percent between 2015 and 2017. Physicians like Dr. Todd Lininger, the director of the Pain Management Fellowship at Wayne State University School of Medicine, in Detroit, Michigan have pioneered the charge to change the way pain is managed by incorporating innovative alternative therapies into the practice of medicine.

Michigan is one of many states to restrict opioid prescriptions in a regional attempt to curtail the growth of the opioid epidemic. These new laws may negatively impact pain patients in the short term, but in the long term may prove to have an immense positive impact on the health and well-being of the community.

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