It seems that in each decade, a new drug emerges—or perhaps an old drugs returns—to ravage the nation as a scourge to our society. Individuals from all over the demographic spectrum can fall prey to the seduction of substance abuse, whether it be due to the allure of alcohol, heroin, prescription pills, or something else. Although any mind-altering, addictive substance is dangerous, there are some that are inherently more life-threatening and wreak more havoc than others. For instance, marijuana hasn’t been attributed to nearly as many fatalities as heroin, which remains one of society’s biggest concerns today.
However, many of the individuals who are addicted to heroin today were actually addicted to prescription pills sometime in the past several years. In fact, painkiller addiction remains incredibly widespread and a subject of much contention among lawmakers, law enforcement, and other public officials. Even healthcare providers have grown increasingly concerned, unsure of whether to prescribe dangerous and highly addictive substances to ailing patients or whether the possibility that a patient is a drug-seeker in disguise is too risky.
Recent federal legislation and state-level policy changes as well as what’s referred to as PDMDs, or prescription drug monitoring databases, have made it harder for drug-seekers to score prescriptions from doctors, but does this slight decrease in painkiller addiction rates come at a high cost?
Prescription Medication Addiction: A National Epidemic
The seeds of today’s painkiller epidemic were sewn back in the 1990s with the advent of OxyContin. When OxyContin was released on the market, it was renowned for its high potency and being such a new drug with very little research behind it, it was thought to have only a marginal potential for abuse and dependency. As such, doctors began prescribing OxyContin to anyone with even moderate pain, resulting in an atmosphere in the healthcare industry in which anyone who felt any level of pain felt entitled to receiving powerful medications that would completely alleviate that pain. Meanwhile, pharmaceutical companies were released other drugs that could compete with OxyContin in terms of its potency, resulting in a rapid increase in both the variety and quantity of opiate painkillers on the market. Many patients also realized that they could sell their surplus pain medications on the street, helping the painkiller addiction rate to skyrocket. Over the course of a decade, painkiller addiction had reached epidemic proportions and catastrophic rates over prescription drug overdose.
What are Prescription Drug Monitoring Databases?
In response to the apocalyptic rates of addiction, legislators made some major law and policy changes. An abuse prevention plan from 2011 stated that there were several key efforts that would be made to reduce rates of prescription drug abuse and addiction, which included an increase in education efforts for youths and adults, development of more convenient disposal programs for unused or expired prescription drugs, affording law enforcement the tools necessary to help fight prescription drug abuse at ground level, and the implementation of a way to monitor the prescription of opiates and other controlled substances.
In terms of the latter, prescription drug monitoring databases, or PDMDs, are state-run electronic databases that track the prescribing and dispensing of controlled prescription drugs to eliminate “doctor shopping,” a colloquial expression that refers to the act of seeing multiple doctors to obtain duplicate prescriptions.
Moreover, states can access the PDMPs of other states, preventing individuals from being able to see doctors even in faraway states. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, these prescription drug-tracking databases help officials to screen for individuals who may be diverting their prescription drugs, or channeling them into illegal use.
Is Florida Still the Epicenter of Painkiller Abuse?
Shortly after OxyContin and other prescription opiates became objects of widespread abuse, Florida became the epicenter of painkiller addiction. Individuals from all over the country would drive thousands of miles overnight or take buses from several states away to see one or even several doctors who were known to prescribe painkillers liberally at so-called “pill mills.” Operating on a cash-only basis, these doctors could see one hundred patients or more in a day, most of whom were from out-of-state and who would return home to sell these prescription drugs on the street for several times more than what they paid for the initial prescriptions. By 2010, there were over 900 prescription drug dispensaries and a reported 7 deaths per day due to prescription drug overdose in the state of Florida.
In addition to Florida doctors being quite liberal with painkiller prescriptions, Florida has traditionally lacked any type of central database that recorded the prescription of controlled substances, which allowed individuals to obtain duplicate prescriptions from several doctors. After gaining the attention of the DEA and public officials, numerous arrests were made with countless pill mills being shut down. By 2014, it was estimated that a much-reduced 367 pain management clinics remained in operate in Florida, owing largely to a recent bill that introduced the state’s first prescription drug monitoring program.
Today, the only remaining state that has not yet implemented a centralized PDMD is the state of Missouri, which has prompted many to begin referring to the state as “the new Florida.” In fact, while painkiller addiction slowly declines in most states, it remains incredibly high in Missouri as well as its neighboring states—which includes Illinois, Arkansas, and Kansas—due to the high number of individuals who travel from out-of-state into Missouri for the sole purpose of doctor shopping. As such, many are hoping that Missouri will soon adopt a PDMD like the other states, especially since the liberal prescribing of painkillers in Missouri is putting many doctors at risk and affecting the wellbeing of surrounding states.
Leave the Depths of Addiction Behind with Drug Treatment Center Finder
Painkillers have afforded many individuals who suffer from painful afflictions with an improved quality of life. Unfortunately, the medications that have been the salvation of some have proven to be a detriment to many others. If you or someone you love is suffering from painkiller addiction or addiction to another dangerous substance and would benefit from learning about the available recovery options, Drug Treatment Center Finder can help. Call us today at 1-855-619-8070 for a free consultation and assessment with one of our caring, experienced recovery specialists who has helped countless individuals leave behind the chains of addiction in order to begin a life of health, sobriety, and happiness.