Every doctor in Georgia must get training on proper prescribing of opioids under a rule approved Thursday morning by the Georgia Composite Medical Board.
“Almost everybody in the state knows we are in the midst of an opioid epidemic right now,” said Dr. E. Dan DeLoach, a plastic surgeon from Savannah who is the chairman of the medical board. “We’re seeing the number of people addicted to opioids increase on an annual basis. We’re seeing the number of people dying from an opioid overdose increase on an annual basis.”
Opioids killed more than 33,000 people in 2015, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Since 1999, the amount of prescription opioids sold nationally nearly quadrupled, the CDC has reported, even though Americans did not report a major change in pain during that same period.
The new training required for Georgia doctors will cover instruction on the guidelines for proper prescribing, as well as recognizing signs of abuse of the highly-addictive drugs.
DeLoach said the board hopes that doctors may cut back opioid prescribing as a result of the training, something he said many Georgia doctors have already done as the problems associated with the medications have become widespread.
“I’ve decreased the number of opioids that I write probably by 70 or 80 percent,” DeLoach said. “There are other agents that are available. You can also better tailor the number of tablets that you are prescribing so that there are not a lot of medication that is left over that could fall into the wrong hands.”
The Medical Association of Georgia, the state’s lobby arm for physicians, opposed the requirement. The group said it is concerned that mandating continuing education on a single issue could lead to requirements for specific training on other issues as well. MAG said it supported voluntary training on opioids.