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New state law means more work, but hopefully less opioids on Suncoast streets

SARASOTA/MANATEE COUNTIES, FL (WWSB) - A new state law now in effect will make it harder for doctors to prescribe opioid painkillers.

According to the centers for disease control, nearly 80 opioid prescriptions were written per 100 Suncoast residents in 2016.

Joshua Barnett hopes a new Florida law can lower a staggering opioid dependence in Manatee County.

"There's more than one prescription per resident in Manatee County," says Barnett, the county's healthcare services manager. "Which means although I don't have a prescription, someone has more than one or two prescriptions of opioids here."

The new law is for patients suffering short term, or acute, pain caused by trauma, surgery, or illness. Sunday, new three and seven day limits started for Schedule II opioids prescriptions such as codeine, hydrocodone, or percocet.

Barnett says three days is enough to show signs of withdrawal.

"When that medication is taken away from them, they feel like they are going to die," he says. "They feel nauseas, they feel sick, they feel terrible, and the pain comes back."

This could mean more doctors visits and insurance costs initially for patients.

"It is going to be difficult for some patients, and some patients may feel it is affecting them not to benefit," says Dr. Fabian Ramos, an interventional pain specialist in Sarasota and Manatee Counties.

Dr. Ramos has been recognized in the community for efforts to cut down on prescription drug abuse. Now, all doctors will have to check each patients controlled substance history in a state database before prescribing an opioid, perhaps leading some to alternative options, or, as Ramos hopes, a more clear definition of acute pain.

"Through this initial wave of uncertainty, soon enough, the boards are going to come up with specific solutions for these particular patients," says Ramos.

Even before the law passed, Ramos says he noticed new patients asking for opioid alternatives due to a greater public awareness about the risks.

Also, the state database of controlled substance history was created in 2009, and although Ramos has used it, this will be the first state law requiring others to do the same.