Contra Costa Health Services (CCHS) issued a health advisory Monday urging local medical providers to prescribe painkillers responsibly.
The health advisory is a response to a steady rise over the years in the abuse and misuse of painkillers such as OxyContin and Norco in the community, according to county officials.
There were 53 accidental drug overdose deaths reported in the county in 2003, a number that shot up to 84 in 2008 and 113 in 2013, according to data from the California Department of Public Health. Of 96 drug-related accidental deaths reported in 2014 to the Contra Costa County coroner’s office, 72 involved prescription drugs, the county said.
In response to these cases, the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors declared at its meeting last week that March is Prescription Drug Abuse Awareness Month.
The county’s health advisory, which can be read in full here, urges healthcare providers, particularly hospitals and urgent care clinics, to “limit the number and pill quantity of opioid painkillers they prescribe, avoid refilling prescriptions written by other providers, and encourage patients to use just one provider and one pharmacy for their pain medicine,” officials said.
They ask medical providers to abide by guidelines that were developed by the Alameda-Contra Costa Medical Association and its partners in the East Bay Safe Prescribing Coalition, including CCHS. Read the full guidelines here.
Opioids include hydrocodone (Norco), oxycodone (OxyContin), morphine, codeine and others. The prescriptions help manage pain but are addictive and can be dangerous, Public Health Director Dan Peddycord said.
“These guidelines are intended to help balance the need for the treatment of pain with the very real risk of drug dependency, addiction and abuse,” Peddycord said.
CCHS says it is working with the local doctors and medial institutions to improve policies and practices, but says the health care providers must continue to be proactive.