Grieving Mother, Lawmaker Led Fight for Methadone Prescription Checks

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Carol Bolding in 2009.

The late Rep. Sue Tibbs, R-Tulsa

Oklahoma House

The late Rep. Sue Tibbs, R-Tulsa

Carol Bolding in 2009.

Carol Bolding in 2009.

Oklahoma’s required methadone checks are largely the legacy of Carol Bolding of Tulsa and her advocate in the Legislature, the late Rep. Sue Tibbs.

On Mother’s Day 2005, Bolding’s only child Brian was found slumped on the floor of a friend’s home next to a glass of milk and a partially eaten chicken sandwich.

Brian Bolding in 2003, two years before he died of a methadone overdose.

Provided by Carol Bolding.

Brian Bolding in 2003, two years before he died of a methadone overdose.\

Brian, who was 29, died from an overdose of methadone, which is used to treat pain and help addicts recover from opiate dependency, and alprazolam, an anti-anxiety drug better known as Xanax. Brian was taking methadone to wean himself off the oxycodone he had been taking for back pain, Carol Bolding said.

Bolding began looking into methadone. She discovered it had been implicated in an alarming number of overdose deaths after doctors began prescribing it more aggressively to treat chronic pain. Methadone has an unusually long half-life and can build up to toxic levels before a patient realizes he or she has taken too much.

“I was either on the phone or I was on the computer,” Bolding said. “That was what I did after my son passed away.”

Bolding enlisted the aid of Tibbs to sponsor a bill requiring physicians to check the PMP every time they wrote a prescription for methadone. Bolding had sought support from many legislators to no avail but finally got Tibbs to help after they met while the legislator was undergoing chemotherapy at the same time as Bolding’s husband.

Tibbs became a passionate advocate of methadone checks, and in 2010, about a year and a half after the two women met, the measure was passed over the initial objections of doctors. The moment was bittersweet for Bolding because her husband died on Mother’s Day 2010, the fifth anniversary of her son’s death and days before the legislation was signed into law.

Tibbs died of cancer in 2012.

“That fiery little woman (Tibbs) got that thing through and signed,” said Darrell Weaver, director of the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs. “It’s had a profound impact on methadone deaths.”

Brian Bolding in 2000.

Provided by Carol Bolding

Brian Bolding in 2000.

The declines in methadone prescriptions and overdoses are not entirely attributable to the mandatory PMP checks. The numbers had already begun falling as doctors across the country became more aware of methadone’s unusual toxicity.

But drug enforcers say they believe Oklahoma’s mandatory PMP checks caused state physicians to exercise even more caution than they would have otherwise.

“(Passing the legislation) made me feel like I gave him (Brian) a voice because he fought so hard to try to stop taking methadone,” Bolding said. “I just know he’s looking down saying, ‘Way to go mom.’”

  • Victoria R.B.

    While I am so sorry for the loss of Mrs. Bolding’s son, I have to say that I have mixed feelings about all of the change in legislation in trying to control the writing of prescriptions for narcotics in Oklahoma. My family has a history of degenerative disc disease; every woman in our family has it and other spine issues like spinal stenosis. I won’t attempt to tell you how painful living with these diseases are and now getting my narcotics prescriptions is becoming equally as painful. Not only is my pharmacy running out of Norco but it takes up to two weeks sometimes for them to receive inventory. Not only do I have my own prescription filled but I take care of my 80-year old Mother’s prescriptions as well. Oh yes, I also have a dog with a collapsed trachea who has a chronic cough that is on a medication of hydrocodone with homotropene. Now, the pharmacy that filled his prescription can only get it in a syrup because the tablets are out and they have no idea when they will get them! I cannot get my dog to take the syrup. I have tried every trick in the book and he still can smell it and refuses to take it. I get about 4 hours sleep a night due to this problem. Did I mention that each refill time, I must drive to my doctor, my mother’s doctor and my vet to get written prescriptions because they cannot be called in and there are no refills. And this is just for one prescription!! Somehow, the people who take these medications legitimately are paying the price for those who don’t take their medications as directed, or who receive them from multiple doctors and no one seems to give a damn. There has to be a happy medium somewhere and I for one, hope it doesn’t take forever for our legislators to find it!