Painkiller Addicts and Their Quest for Prescribing Doctors

A disturbing statistic is that more than one-fifth of Americans have taken a prescription drug for non-medical reasons. The trend is even more alarming when it comes to high school students, 25 percent of whom are said to abuse prescription drugs – a rate that has increased by 33 percent since 2009. But what can be done to stop, or at least slow down, what the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) calls an epidemic? The solution would have to address not just addicts and peddlers who seek out a network of prescribing doctors, but also the problem of some doctors themselves who knowingly over prescribe these medications for profit.

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Prescription drug abuse is a growing problem.

Just this past March, Manhattan physician Dr. Hector Castro was arrested along with his office manager and more than 40 other people for running an oxycodone-trafficking ring worth $10 million. The doctor’s activities were only discovered because a pill bottle with his name on it as the prescribing physician was found alongside the body of an overdose victim. To think that physicians would put the health of their patients in jeopardy and break the law for financial gain is shocking, but it is nevertheless one part of what is a very complex problem.

Besides the obvious demand for these drugs, coupled with enterprising addicts and a minority of greedy doctors, a major part of this growing problem is that the trade of these illegal prescriptions is often hard to detect. Every state runs a prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP) – a database of information about the prescription of abused drugs. However, each state varies with regard to which controlled substances must be reported, who must submit data (doctors, pharmacies, etc.), how often data is collected, who can access the data (e.g. law enforcement), and how compliance is enforced. Additionally, not every state shares their information with other states, so offenders often spread their activities across state borders to avoid suspicion.

Do you think these state-based PDMPs should be improved for better success in identifying “doctor shoppers” and doctors who prescribe irresponsibly? Tell us below.

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