ORLANDO, Fla.-- It began as a 200-plus page bill, HB 21 approved by Governor Rick Scott on March 19.
- Doctors mandated to take classes
- New opioid law to protect against synthetic substances
- RELATED: New Opioid Law limits supply of painkillers prescribed to patients
But this week, a law hoping to stem the epidemic of opioid deaths in the state actually took effect.
Starting on July 1, doctors who prescribe controlled substances must take classes to learn about the law and limit opioid drug prescriptions: three days for acute pain and up to seven days, depending on circumstances.
The law also stipulates that doctors must consult a statewide database of controlled substances before writing prescriptions.
More on it from the state via Florida Medical Association here.
"The bigger picture is we will learn to be more responsible in the way we prescribe opioid pain medications," said Dr. Timothy Huckaby. "We've been way too lax in our prescriptions of opioids and we need to understand these are dangerous drugs."
Huckaby knows firsthand what addiction looks and feels like. He, as a young doctor, had a surgery and became addicted to painkillers.
"I never realized the toll it took on my life and actually went to treatment myself to overcome my addiction. Even when you're tired of doing it, you just can't stop," he explained. "That's why I can understand, because most of my patients who come to me, they don't want to be doing this."
Huckaby explained that part of the reason behind the uptick in addiction is that drugs are more pure, often cut with synthetics -- making them more addictive.
When patients become addicted to pain meds, then exposed to synthetic drugs, it can lead to deadly consequences.
"Our legislature has passed a law to try and address these synthetics and I think that will help," said Ashley Moody, candidate for Florida Attorney General, during last week's Republican Sunshine Summit.
"We have a lot of young kids overdosing on opioids, elder citizens overdosing on opioids," said State Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Naples. "We have to understand that pain management is critical."
As for Huckaby, the doctor got clean and dedicated his life to helping others overcome their addiction. He's spent the last four years working at Orlando Recovery Center, a treatment facility which offers help to those with substance abuse issues, providing detox to sober living.
"We've known since the 1800s that these were dangerous drugs. Drugs that cause some type of changes in people's brains to the point where once people begin using them, they can't stop. If we have something that's dangerous for the public, shouldn't we be doing everything to safeguard the public?" he said.
"It's more oversight, it's more work. But quality medicine always involves doing certain things. And after all, isn't that what we want?"