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Politicians Aiming to Put Combination Locks on Pill Bottles

The opioid crisis is forcing at least two lawmakers to get creative in finding a solution to solve the epidemic that has taken tens of thousands of lives in just the last few years.

Two Tennessee legislators are proposing a new policy that would effectively place a lock on pill bottles, requiring a combination code provided by a pharmacist for access. State Senator Richard Briggs and Representative Matthew Hill are pushing for a new law, known as the Pilfering Prevention Act, that is aimed at curbing the opioid epidemic in Tennessee that took 1,269 lives in 2017 and hundreds more in the years following. More Tennesseans died from drug overdoses in 2017 than any year on record, and the lawmakers argue that pill bottles containing opioids are too easy to open, and thus easy to steal.

“Too often well-meaning Tennesseans are completely unaware of the highly addictive, and potentially lethal, prescriptions drugs sitting in the family medicine cabinet,” said Senator Briggs. “This is where drug addiction starts, and often where accidental overdoses occur. These drugs are being manufactured and prescribed in record numbers, and so it shouldn’t be a surprise that drug-related deaths are at an all-time high in Tennessee. We must explore every tool to combat this epidemic, and my bill is a practical and important step in the right direction.”

Senator Briggs and Representative Hill believe that the new policy could combat the epidemic and prevent drug abuse.

Says Rep. Hill:

“Currently, there is little distinction between the way commonly-prescribed drugs and highly-addictive and dangerous drugs are dispensed in Tennessee. If we’re going to be serious about addressing our obvious prescription drug problem in Tennessee, we have to implement safeguards that differentiate certain dangerous prescriptions and divert the possibility of abuse. That’s what my bill aims to do.”

If passed, it will require certain dangerous prescriptions drugs such as opioids, stimulants, and benzodiazepines to be given in lockable containers, preventing teens and young adults from stealing pills and subsequently getting hooked, while the pharmacist provides a four-digit code to the patient. While this will make it more difficult for adolescents to experiment with the drugs in their parents’ cabinets, the proposal runs the risk of simply putting a band-aid on larger problems that aren’t being addressed, such as the ease in which these drugs are sourced.

This isn’t the first proposed legislation of its kind. Lawmakers in Michigan, Maryland, and Colorado introduced a similar bill last year that failed to gain traction. One of the issues was cost – implementing a combination lock can add to the cost of a prescription by as much as five dollars, generating additional revenue while not necessarily solving the issue.

Meanwhile, the drug war continues as addiction and drug-related crime increase. Legislators are stepping forward with a proposal that aims at making sure all opioid medications are controlled, however refusing to solve or even adequately address the issue of pill theft on a human level.

One can look at the country of Portugal, which introduced sweeping reforms in a historical decriminalization of all drugs in 2001, leading to remarkable effects on crime rates and overall population health and well-being. Portuguese citizens use drugs substantially less than other EU nations.

Meanwhile, in the United States, action on the Pilfering Prevention Act has been deferred in the Tennessee State Senate and Local Government Committee to 2020.

Regardless of what kind of drug is it, it’s important to practice safe storage and handling of medicine wherever you are. Rather than keep medicine handy and around at all times, store it in shelves up and away from sight. Use reminder tools to help you remember the right medicine at the right time and the right dose.

Here are some ways to remember:

  • Set an alarm on your phone
  • Use a medication schedule
  • Write yourself a note
  • Associate taking a daily medication with a daily task, such as brushing your teeth

The opioid epidemic is serious, and we know what it is like to see a loved one suffer through substance use disorder. No one has to go it alone.

At Ethos Structured Sober Living, community is our method. We are a support system for one another in facing our challenges and building strength in recovery. Contact us today for more information at (323) 942-9996. We’re happy to help!