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New Tennessee law requires doctors to offer naloxone to patients receiving certain opioid prescriptions

Posted at 7:35 AM, Jul 27, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-27 12:52:58-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — A new Tennessee law is requiring doctors to offer a naloxone prescription to certain patients, giving them the tool to prevent an overdose.

There are a few criteria in order to be offered the prescription. According to Vanderbilt University Medical Center, being prescribed more than a three-day supply of opioids, prescribing an opioid at the same time as a benzodiazepine, or having a higher risk of an overdose are all criteria.

The law took effect this month. VUMC Assistant Professor of Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine Dr. Rebecca Donald said the law was enacted to make things safer for patients prescribed opioids.

According to the state, in 2021 there were more than 4.7 million opioid painkiller prescriptions. In 2020, there were more than 3,000 drug overdose deaths.

The state is seeing a steady decline in opioid pain killer prescriptions. In 2017, there were two million more than in 2021.

Dr. Donald said the goal is to put the antidote for opioid overdoses into the hands of more people. She said some people do not understand just how potent these drugs are, and can accidentally overdose.

"Anybody who's prescribed an opioid, you know, if they're using it appropriately, it's a great pain medicine. But things can happen if they develop renal dysfunction or kidney problems or if they develop pneumonia and they're not breathing as well as they previously were. Those other medical conditions put them at higher risk of an unintentional overdose," Dr. Donald said.

She said when it comes to overdoses she has seen people admitted who unintentionally overdosed. She said naloxone is a way for people to appreciate how dangerous the drugs are.

"I think another thing about the value of naloxone that people are starting to realize is that a lot of people are just overdosing unintentionally in the public, on buses, in public places... having naloxone available with them at all times allows them the opportunity to save a life if necessary," Dr. Donald said.