Ohio to Expand Prescription Drug Monitoring, Votes

Ohio to Expand Prescription Drug Monitoring, Votes "No" to Legalization of Marijuana

Ohio's Governor John Kasich has announced a $1.5 million project to link the state's prescription drug monitoring system with the electronic medical records systems already maintained by doctors and hospitals. The move makes Ohio the first state in the country to integrate its prescription database, called the Ohio Automated Rx Reporting System (OARRS), with medical records databases. Meanwhile, Ohioans have voted "No" to a much-ballyhooed vote to fully legalize marijuana - both recreational and medicinal. The vote to amend the state's constitution was defeated 64 percent to 36 percent - a crushing defeat if there ever was one. As for the new linkup of the two databases, the idea is to increase the ability of all concerned to combat the epidemic of drug addiction, particularly opiates and overdose deaths. "The message to Ohioans, despite the fact that we still see a tsunami of drugs, is that we're not going to give up in this state until we win more and more battles, maybe ultimately the war," Kasich said at the news conference announcing the new system. The plan to link the databases follows much public attention on the state's epidemic of overdose deaths, which rose 17.6 percent last year to 2,482 - a new record for Ohio. The state has lost more than 12,000 people to drug overdoses since 2002, nearly quadrupling the drug-related death rate.

It's not all heroin in Ohio

The increase isn't all heroin, either. The synthetic opiate painkiller fentanyl accounted for more than 500 of Ohio's deaths last year. It's often mixed with heroin and other drugs without the user's knowledge to increase the high. On its own, fentanyl is known by the street names China white, dance fever, friend, goodfella, jackpot and murder 8. Fentanyl is no friend or goodfella. The state says it killed five times as many people in Ohio last year as in 2013. A report in The Columbus Dispatch says fatal overdoses "rose significantly in almost every category in 2014: heroin (1,177 compared with 983 in 2013); prescription opioids (1,155 from 726); cocaine (511 from 405); and even alcohol (376 from 304).The drug-death rate last year was 21.4 per 100,000 Ohioans, up from 5.7 per 100,000 in 2003." The OARRS system helps doctors and pharmacists track prescriptions for all drugs, especially helpful for prescriptions of narcotics which are frequently abused. Prescription drug monitoring helps spot people with bogus or multiple prescriptions (called "doctor shopping") as well as doctors who may be over-prescribing addictive drugs. The OARRS system is credited for helping reduce the numbers of opiate prescriptions. Ohio doctors prescribed 40 million fewer doses of opiates in 2014 than they did the year before. And there was a "dramatic drop" in reported doctor-shopping last year, down to 960 from more than 3,000 in 2009.

Marijuana vote may not be the last word

The question on everyone's mind is, will weed make a comeback? The main objection wasn't so much against marijuana itself, as it was against the wording of the proposed amendment. First of all, it didn't separate medical from recreational, it just flatly asked for a leap into full legalization, period. That set off a lot of alarm bells among a fairly conservative population of voters. Second of all, it also placed marijuana growing, production and sales in the hands a few millionaires and billionaires. Limiting the cultivation of the state's crop to 10 already-chosen properties really put the main mass of voters off the amendment. Many of these voters are expected to come back with "Yes" votes if these two objections are handled differently in a future vote. But another force was at work against the amendment too - a political and social powerhouse of state reps, police forces, health groups of all sorts and others solidly against the legalization of pot. "Ohioans against Marijuana Monopolies" pulled nearly 140 groups from around the state into an effective coalition, which in fact won the day. Democratic Rep. Mike Curtin of Columbus was the sparkplug behind the opposition. The measure to legalize recreational marijuana "was extreme," Curtin said. "It was the most audacious proposed amendment in the state's history since we had the initiative process." A generation ago, or even a decade or less ago, who could have imagined that the citizens and their leaders in cities, counties, states and even entire nations, would be so deeply embroiled in dealing with drugs and addictions? Here at Novus, we play a vital part in the debate by reporting the news about drugs and addiction. And we also play a pivotal role in people's lives, by helping them find their way out of the darkness of addiction and into the light of sobriety. If you or someone you care for needs help, don't hesitate to call.

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