AUGUSTA, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — As thousands of Mainers battle addiction to opiate drugs, the Legislature is being asked to take another step to try to stop addiction before it starts.
Experts and policy makers say a majority of addictions begin with legally prescribed opioid pain pills, so legislators are being asked to require health care providers to warn patients of the risk of addiction before they prescribe those drugs.
At a public hearing in Augusta on Tuesday, lawmakers were expected to hear a range of arguments on that issue, including those from several recovering opioid addicts.
Marissa Melton and Michael Brann both told NEWS CENTER they were addicted to opioids. Marissa said she was in treatment but was unwillingly given opiates when she had to go to the hospital for an operation.
"I told them I did not want it," Melton said, who said she, too, told hospital officials of her addiction and that she did not want opioids. Melton said when awakened from the surgery to find a nurse injecting her with an opioid drug.
Brand said he, too, told hospital staff he did not want opioids because he was a recovering addict but claims the staff kept trying to get him to take the drugs anyway.
"They don’t tell you any side effects of these drugs," Brand said.
Jeff Austin, VP of government affairs and communications at the Maine Hospital Association, said most health care providers already inform patients of the effects and risks of opioid drugs. Austin said there are emergency cases when hospitals are forced to administer drugs without prior approval of the patient.
Rep. Deb Sanderson, sponsor of the bill, said she believes most providers already inform patients of the risks, but said the proposed law would be "another tool in the toolbox" to use to help reduce Maine's serious opioid addiction problem.