Oregon, like much of the rest of the nation, has an opioid problem, and while illegal use of the addictive drugs has dropped here in recent years, the state could be doing much more to encourage that trend.
That was one takeaway from a Secretary of State’s audit of Oregon’s prescription drug monitoring program. It tracks the dispensing of prescription opioids and other concerning drugs in the state.
Another was this: Unless lawmakers amend legislation governing the program, the state’s efforts to curb opioid abuse won’t be as effective as they should be.
Oregon’s opioid problem remains very real. Prescription opioid use here leads to a death about every three days, and as the report found, treatment and follow-up support for substance abusers is inadequate.
We rank last among the states for programs for adults and second to last for programs aimed at adolescents.
Yet, the audit found, the state doesn’t collect all the information it could — veterinarians and pharmacists in non-retail settings are not required to report to the program, for example.
Nor does it require doctors and other prescribers to use the system when writing prescriptions for opioids.
Most important, perhaps, the state gathers information and then, in part because state law limits how it can be used, the program does too little to find both those who over-prescribe and users who shop for and receive multiple prescriptions for problem drugs from a variety of outlets.
The Oregon Health Authority, which oversees the reporting program, agrees with all the audit’s dozen recommendations and expects to act within the next few months on those that do not rely on changes in state law.
It will take action from the Legislature, however, to correct half the problems the audit turned up, and lawmakers should make fixing them a top priority in 2019.