‘It could be deadly’: new law restricts supplies of opioids

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Kimberley Winterbauer has dealt with chronic pain for 17 years after suffering a severe back injury while working as a waitress.

“(It was) just horrendous pain. Not being able to get up in the morning and do the things I wanted to do,” she said.

Multiple surgeries left her with scars after rods and screws were placed in her back.

“I honestly didn’t realize it would be an ongoing issue. I thought I would heal and it would go away. And that didn’t happen,” Winterbauer said.

She now takes prescription medications daily to manage her severe pain.

“In order for me to get up and do anything, that’s what I rely on,” Winterbauer said.

But lately, she’s noticed that it’s been more difficult for her to get the medications she needs.

“We’re looked at as though we’re drug addicts and criminals for taking what we take,” she said.

Under a new Florida law, she’s worried it will become even harder. Physicians are now limited to prescribing a three-day supply for acute pain unless strict conditions are met for a seven-day supply. Winterbauer is usually able to get a three-month supply.

The changes come amid the ongoing opioid epidemic. The CDC says that drugs have killed more than 42,000 people in 2016, more than any year on record. And 40 percent of those deaths involved prescription medications.

In Lee County alone, the death rate more than doubled last year.

Former addict Hank Bertadotta lost several friends to the drugs and hopes these new restrictions help combat the growing problem.

“They’re harmful and misused and if you don’t know the dosage, it could be deadly,” Bertadotta said.

“It’s taking responsibility for yourself, is really the bottom line. I know this is what I’m prescribed per day, that’s what I take per day. I don’t take any more than that,” Winterbauer added.

Under the new law, physicians and pharmacists are also required to review a patient’s history on the state’s database, and health care professionals will need to take courses on responsibly prescribing opioids.

Those with certain pain conditions would be exempt from the rule.

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