New opioid prescription guidelines from a federal agency echo what New Jersey has already been doing for years.

At the same time, many states have laws on the books that mirror the patient notification act first enacted by New Jersey in 2017.

"This is a life-saving law that makes complete common sense, and it's not costing anyone anything," said Angelo Valente, executive director of the Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey.

The nonprofit has been advocating across the country for passage of laws that are now the basis of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's clinical guidelines for prescribing opioids for pain, released on Nov. 4.

The recommendations place a priority on non-opioid treatment for patients experiencing pain. Before starting opioid therapy, a prescriber should discuss the potential addiction risks with the patient, along with the benefits, according to the CDC guidelines.

In addition, the guidelines recommend the lowest effective dosage for patients who are new to opioid medication, and immediate-release opioids versus extended-release pills.

Since 2017, a law in the Garden State has required that prescribers discuss the risks and benefits of opioid treatment with their patients suffering from acute pain, as well as non-opioid alternatives, before issuing an initial prescription. The prescription must be no more than a five-day supply at the lowest effective dose of an immediate-release drug.

For patients who are minors, the addictive potential of opioid painkillers would be discussed with their guardians.

According to a study released in 2020 by Brandeis University, New Jersey's law resulted in a fourfold increase in the percentage of doctors having the sensitive conversation with their patients.

In the month after the law went into effect, the report showed, nearly 5,000 fewer patients were started on opioids.

But, despite the major changes mandated at the prescriber level, the number of overdose deaths in New Jersey has risen. Suspected drug deaths in the state topped 3,100 in 2021. The count was around 2,700 in 2017.

New Jersey's law has been replicated by 18 states throughout the country, Valente noted. A handful of states have similar legislation in the pipeline.

"Hopefully within the next year or two, over half of the country will have adopted a law that was created in New Jersey," Valente said.

Dino Flammia is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at

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