Statistics highlight need for prescription drug monitoring
Published: April 17, 2010
Published: April 17, 2010
In the 3 1/2 years from Jan. 1, 2006, to July 1, 2009, drug-related deaths outnumbered traffic deaths in Hernando County 135 to 127.
During a five-week period ending earlier this month, seven drug-related deaths were recorded in Hernando County.
That's even more disturbing.
The overdose of prescription drugs is an epidemic that's plaguing our community, state and nation. Alarmed by the number of recent deaths, the Hernando County Sheriff's Office has been moved to action to help our community better understand the dangers of prescription drug abuse.
While they may be manufactured in labs, prescribed by doctors and distributed by pharmacists, prescription drugs can be as addictive and deadly as illegal drugs sold on the streets. So widely distributed are they that addicts have resorted to abusing the drugs as they would an illegal narcotic, sometimes crushing the tablets into powder and snorting them to shorten the time between consumption and intoxication.
The number of prescription drug-related deaths in recent weeks triggered Capt. James Walker to speak out. Hernando Countians need to understand that the abuse of prescription drugs can kill.
The statistics are sobering.
"This is something we've been dealing with for the past few years now, but seven in a little over a month is crazy high," Capt. Walker told Hernando Today.
"We're hoping for more public awareness," he added. "We need to get the public to understand the danger in all of this."
"All of this" primarily is the abuse of prescription drugs - drugs that doctors have prescribed to patients who are abusing them or ones that have been secured through illegal means - bogus prescriptions, theft, etc.
Oxycodone, one of the most sought-after prescription pain killers for drug dealers and abusers, is known as "hillbilly heroin" on the street. It's fast becoming one of the most notorious killers of those who abuse it.
To highlight the problem, a Hudson man was recently arrested in Hernando County after authorities learned he acquired more than 2,100 oxycodone pills over seven months from nine different doctors - commonly referred to as doctor shopping. Five of the nine doctors listed in the arrest report were interviewed by detectives and provided sworn statements, saying the patient did not tell them he was receiving oxycodone from other doctors.
So how does our community combat this plague? Public awareness is one key factor, but much more must be done.
The state is in dire need of an electronic prescription drug monitoring program, whereby a computer database of all prescriptions written would allow doctors to know if a patient has obtained prescriptions elsewhere. In some cases it would also allow regulators and/or law enforcement to monitor doctors for the prescriptions they write. A bill signed into law last year in Florida will go into effect in December.
As Capt. Walker can attest, December won't come quickly enough for some Hernando Countians addicted to prescription pain killers.
If you know someone struggling with drug abuse or even suspect they may be, get help before they become another statistic. Tomorrow may be too late.