Prescription Drug Addiction and Abuse Is the New Enemy

Prescription Drug Addiction and Abuse Is the New Enemy

TennCare, Tennessee’s equivalent of Medicare, is the first insurance provider to be backed by a law against fraudulently-obtained prescription drugs. Specifically – if you go to a doctor for a prescription and have received a prescription for that same drug in the past month, you have to inform the doctor of that fact. If you don’t, you can be investigated and, if found guilty of fraud, charged with a felony. Previously, you could be prosecuted for selling the drugs, but not for buying them and certainly not for attempting to buy them.

The new law is intended to curb the practice of ‘doctor shopping’, which has fueled rising prescription drug addiction and abuse statistics. What is doctor shopping? "There are people who spend a large amount of their time going from ER to ER and from doctor's office to doctor's office trying to get narcotics to use or sell," said Dr. Corey Slovis, chairman of the department of emergency medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, in an interview with the Tennessean. ”You'd be amazed at the things people do to get their drugs." Doctors routinely see fake toothaches, backaches and migraines, and some people even prick their fingers to bloody their urine sample, he said.

Those affected by prescription drug addiction and abuse are just as intent on getting them as the drug addict on the street. According to the DEA, doctor shopping is a big problem in many states - which explains how, just in the first few years after the release of OxyContin, ERs saw 30,000 people with OxyContin-related conditions - but, until now, there was no law against it. How did the prescription drug addiction situation get so out of hand? I’m sure advertising has had a big part in it: Ads on television, in magazines, at sports events and on the Internet.

The exact amount spent is not known but, in 2001, Purdue Pharma spent $200 million on advertising OxyContin alone. These ads are designed to elicit a response from the viewer – they want us to ask our doctors for these drugs. And, according to studies conducted by the FDA and the Kaiser Family Foundation, nearly 50 million of us do just that.

This is borne out by the statistics: A report from two years ago said that 32 million people are now involved in prescription drug addiction or abuse, compared to 12 million on illicit drugs. And some of us get hooked, and some of us give them to our friends, and some of us sell them, and some of us sell them to kids, and some of us become drug addicts, and some of us are dead. If this law is extended beyond TennCare, and if other states follow Tennessee’s lead, we’re likely to witness an impact much greater than was ever affected by the other ‘war on drugs. Prescription drug addiction and abuse is the new enemy. This is the war that now has to be won.

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