New Tennessee law offering naloxone prescriptions aims to curb opioid abuse

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) – A new law in Tennessee requires doctors to offer a prescription for naloxone to certain patients, giving them the tool to prevent an overdose.

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

The law went into 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 who were prescribed opioids.

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

The state is seeing a steady decline in prescriptions for opioid painkillers. In 2017, they were two million more than in 2021.

Dr Donald said the goal was to get the antidote to opioid overdoses into the hands of more people. She said some people don’t understand how powerful these drugs are and can accidentally overdose.

“Anyone who’s been prescribed an opioid, you know, if they use it correctly, it’s a great pain reliever. But things can happen if they develop kidney dysfunction or kidney problems or they develop a pneumonia and not breathing as well as they used to. These other medical conditions put them at higher risk for an unintentional overdose, Dr. Donald said.

She said that when it comes to overdoses, she has seen people admitted to unintentional overdoses. She said naloxone is a way for people to appreciate how dangerous drugs are.

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