The opioid epidemic is one that has ravaged a large portion of the United States because it has impacted individuals from all walks of life. In 2016, drug overdoses were reported as the leading cause of accidental death in the United States, and approximately 34,500 of the 64,000 overdose deaths were from opioids.

As the crisis continues to escalate, both federal and state governments have taken initiatives in an attempt to curtail the growth.

From a federal standpoint, several steps have been taken to reduce the diversion and misuse of prescription opioids and related deaths. This includes supporting the continuous use of prescription drug monitoring programs, approval of abuse-deterrent formulations for opioid analgesics, and the implementation of overdose education and naloxone distribution programs.

States are also taking steps to implement comprehensive initiatives to reduce opioid overprescribing. North Carolina, which has witnessed the lives of more than 12,000 of its residents taken as a result of drug addiction since 1999, recently passed legislation that went into effect Jan. 1. The new law changes the way in which doctors can prescribe pain relievers.

The initiative, called the Strength Opioid Prevent (STOP) Act, will place a limit on the number of opioid medications that doctors can prescribe during an initial office visit. It will also allow doctors to prescribe only five days worth of opioids for patients who are suffering from acute pain.

Furthermore, for pain that is related to surgery, doctors have the ability to prescribe a week's worth of pain relievers. After this, it will be up to the doctor's discretion to determine if a patient should have a refill on the medication.

The hope is that the STOP Act will help to reduce North Carolina's incidences of overdoses, which have increased more than 800 percent in the last year.

But North Carolina is not alone in placing strict limitations on the number of prescription pain relievers that doctors are able to prescribe. At least 17 states, including Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, Massachussets, Ohio and New Jersey, have passed laws to limit the length of initial opioid prescription to five or seven days, with others placing dosage limitations.

States are recognizing the urgency in making dramatic changes to the prescribing of opioids and other pain medications. Opponents believe these strong mandates take away from the individualistic approach that must be taken when treating patients, but many believe these strong initiatives must be taken in order to prevent additional lives from being lost to the opioid epidemic.