Maine has one of the highest overdose rates in the country, with a record 378 deaths in 2016. And the state has responded aggressively, by passing one of the nation’s strictest laws on prescribing opioids. It caps most patients at 100 milligrams of morphine, or its equivalent, per day. But the law has had unintended consequences. Hundreds of chronic pain sufferers are now finding it impossible to access their typical dosage.
After some Mainers pushed back on these restrictions, lawmakers said they could qualify for higher doses under the law’s palliative care exemption. Despite these assurances though, many doctors have their own interpretation of palliative care, considering it reserved for symptomatic relief at end of life. And with the medical community often blamed for causing the opioid crisis, patients are struggling to find doctors to give them the medicine they need.
VICE News visits chronic pain sufferers in Midcoast Maine and one of the only physicians willing to exempt them from the new law.
This is the second installment for our series World of Hurt, which examines the ways different regions are impacted by the opioid crisis. If you or anyone you know would like to share their story as part of our ongoing coverage, please email Seth Dalton and Cassandra Giraldo at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.
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