In their efforts to combat the deadly opioid crisis, lawmakers are lurching all over the place: from demanding doctors prescribe fewer opioids to shutting down pill mills to class action lawsuits against pharmaceutical companies. Others are finding novel ways to funnel more people who suffer from addiction into prison, such as by prosecuting dealers for homicide in death-resulting cases.
A new North Carolina bill, sponsored by Republicans in the House and Senate, would likely fall in that latter category. The Heroin & Opioid Prevention & Enforcement Act would give police "unprecedented" power to sift through a person's entire prescription drug history—no warrant required—if they're being investigated for any drug crime, the ACLU notes.
Patients' records are stored in a Controlled Substance Reporting System, which tracks prescriptions to help doctors meet their patients' needs. Current law restricts law enforcements' access to the database.
The ACLU explains how the law would erode patients' rights.
"First, it erodes civil liberties by eliminating the requirement for law enforcement to obtain a court order before searching someone’s prescription records in the database, a crucial protection for our constitutional right against unreasonable searches and seizures," they write.
"Second, it opens up a person’s entire history of prescription records at the pharmacy after a single drug charge. Arrested on suspicion of possessing a little marijuana? Under the North Carolina bill, law enforcement could look at your entire pharmaceutical history, without any warrant or court order. Do you use birth control? Take medication to treat depression or anxiety? Ever taken antibiotics to treat a sexually transmitted disease? North Carolina law enforcement would get to know all that and more."
Meanwhile, much of the state has yet to expand access to evidence-based treatment for opioid addiction.