BURLINGTON (AP) -- The Vermont Medical Practice Board has issued new rules designed to prevent the abuse of prescription opiate-based painkillers.

The rules for physicians who prescribe opiates are the first update in nine years and come as officials say the state is confronting an ongoing opiate and heroin epidemic.

"The board ... recognizes that individuals’ use of opioid analgesics for other than legitimate medical purposes poses a significant threat to the health and safety of the individual as well as to the public health," said a section of the document.

The new policy encourages doctors to screen patients needing pain medication for any history of mental health disorders and alcohol or drug abuse. It also advises doctors to use a system that tracks prescriptions for controlled substances, to make sure patients aren’t seeking opiate medications from multiple sources.

"We hope and intend this to be a best practices guideline that reflects a balance between the need to treat chronic pain and recognizing the risks and problems we have to be aware of," Medical Practice Board Chairwoman Dr. Patricia King told the Burlington Free Press.

King said the new guidelines follow a 2013 model policy approved by the Federation of State Medical Boards. The Vermont board spent parts of its last three monthly meetings deliberating over how the Vermont version of the policy would read before it was approved earlier this month.


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