Next time you go to the pharmacy, you might not be able to refill your painkiller prescription. The new regulations are part of New York's I-Stop law that goes into effect this weekend. It limits doctors on how much hydrocodone they can prescribe. As our Katie Gibas reports, the goal is to cut down abuse of and addiction to the drugs.
NEW YORK -- Three years ago, Julie Santorelli was at work when something fell on her head, fractured her skull, and popped several discs. She ended up needing neck surgery.
"It was just a horrible pain and it was constant, everyday, all the time. I was prescribed a lot of pain medicine, the last one being oxycodone," said Syracuse resident Julie Santorelli.
After the surgery, the pain continued. And she found herself addicted to the pain meds.
"It got to the point where you need more and more and something higher and something higher. I had to take the medicine or I would feel sick," said Santorelli.
And Julie's doctor, Brian Johnson, says her story is all too common. Hydrocodone prescriptions in New York have doubled in just the last few years. That's why Johnson and other addiction specialists have been pushing for restrictions on "Opioid" pain meds like hydrocodone.
"Pain pills increase pain. Everyone knows when they first take an oxycodone, it helps. They don't realize a month later, the brain is responding by intensifying its pain drivers and everything is starting to hurt more and more. It gets to be a vicious downward cycle where someone takes a bunch of oxycodone or hydrocodone and stops breathing," said Dr. Brian Johnson, the director of Addiction Medicine at SUNY Upstate Medical University.
As of this weekend, New York Doctors will only be allowed prescribe a 30-day supply without refills. Then the patient would have to see their physician for a new script.
"This is one of our growing problems. And a lot of patients we found who are addicted to these medications started using them for a legitimate medical purpose and now have become dependent on them, so anything we can do to help thwart that problem in our state is a good thing," said Daniel Hind, the Regional Pharmacy Manager of Kinney Drugs.
Now, three years after her accident, Julie Santorelli is finally off her Opioid pain meds, and she goes to the pharmacy much less often. She hopes the new law and awareness it raises will encourage patients to be their own advocates.
"When I was going to the doctor, I would get prescription after prescription after prescription. And that might be what happens, and they don't tell you know because they see you in a lot of pain. And if it ever happened to me again, no matter what it was, I would never take it again. That's how bad it is," said Santorelli.
Johnson says more doctors need to address the underlying causes of pain, rather than just writing a prescription to mask it.
As for Julie Santorelli, she's using other methods for to deal with it like physical therapy, acupuncture and massage.
The law also places restrictions on the pain drug Tradmadol. Doctors will only be able to prescribe enough for 30 days, with a maximum refill of five times.
Addiction specialists are pushing the FDA to enact a similar law at the national level.