Substance Abuse

Maine Doctors Require Patients to Undergo Random Drug Testing Before Writing Painkiller Prescriptions

Maine is stepping up its efforts to combat prescription drug abuse and among the firsts to get affected are doctors and patients, the Bangor Daily News reports.

Doctors are asking patients to sign a controlled-substances agreement that gives permission to obtain a blood or urine sample at any time to ensure patients are taking their pills, rather than selling them, and are taking those pills only. Patients who refused to sign won’t be issued with a prescription and those who fail the drugs test will have some explaining to do.

For years, Maine has been struggling to put an end to its prescription drug abuse problem. State leaders and health care providers have tried developing programs aimed at reducing prescription drugs addiction in patients, as well as the non-medical use of prescription medicines among Mainers. Recently, the state created the Prescription Monitoring Program, an electronic database that tracks every patient receiving a controlled substance prescription in Maine.

“Everybody is under pressure to have policies that do everything they can to tighten up the prescribing of opiates,” said Gordon Smith, executive vice president of the Maine Medical Association.

St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center has adopted an official policy this fall which requires doctors to get agreements signed by all patients who receive three or more new or renewed prescriptions for controlled substances within six months. The agreement is voluntary, but those who don’t sign won’t get prescription.

At this point, it’s still unclear how effective the controlled-substances agreements and the random drug tests requirements are in resolving the state’s prescription drug abuse problem. There is also no available data that reveals how many patients are getting tested and how often they are getting the tests. But Smith believes the agreements are essential elements in an overall plan to address addiction in Maine.

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