Johns Hopkins findings serve as a warning: Physician-Assisted Suicide will only worsen Maryland’s prescription drug abuse epidemic

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A recent review conducted by the Johns Hopkins University and published last week in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that a majority of Schedule II drugs (opioids) go unused, are unsafely stored, are not disposed of legally, and pose a “high risk” of being abused. The study looked at opioids in particular, a class of drugs found in Schedule II, established by the Controlled Substance Act of 1970. This category is also the same Schedule in which physician-assisted suicide drugs secobarbital and pentobarbital are classified, due to their high potential for abuse and severe psychological or physical dependence. 

The results of the review, reported on by the The Baltimore Sun, included observations from a Johns Hopkins doctor that these dangerous controlled substances “go undisposed, and they may be a reservoir for opioids that are used in nonindicated ways, meaning they’re misused and maybe diverted.”

As deaths from drug overdoses skyrocket in Maryland, the Baltimore Sun article highlights why the review’s finding should be cause for grave concern:

The findings come during a time when opioid abuse and drug overdoses are rampant in many American communities, including Baltimore. The city saw 694 overdose deaths last year, according to the state Department of Mental Health and Hygiene, comprising about one third of the 2,089 overdose deaths in the state. These numbers were a record high in Maryland and a 66 percent increase from 2015.

The 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health showed an estimated 3.8 million Americans use opioids in a nonmedical way every month, More than half of these people obtained opioids from a friend or relative, whether they were free, purchased or stolen. Having access to leftover opioid medication in the house after surgery leads to the potential for misuse, and lead to use of more illicit drugs.

The Johns Hopkins review also found that just 10 percent of the patients disposed of their prescription opioids in FDA-approved methods. Moreover, 73 percent to 77 percent of patients reported their prescription opioids were not stored in locked containers.

If Marylanders are not properly storing and disposing of prescribed opioids, why would we want to introduce more dangerous drugs like the ones prescribed for PAS into the mix? Knowing these facts, would any citizen or member of the General Assembly think it’s a good idea to begin the practice of prescribing more of these highly addictive drugs? In Oregon, 35% of PAS prescriptions written in that state last year went unused. It is foolish and dangerous to worsen the crisis in our state knowing that many of these drugs can fall into the wrong hands.

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