Prescription Pill Abuse and D.E.A. Changes
Statistics on drug use are grim as prescription rules are tightening
There could be no mistaking the dire message: “White America’s Drug Problem is Getting Worse,” topped the article in Bloomberg Business week (Politics and Policy section). For anyone who has been sleeping and doesn’t know, painkiller overdoses have increased more than fourfold from 1999 to 2011, and deaths from overdoses hit almost 17,000 in 2011 alone. Whites accounted for more overdoses than any other race.
This article appeared shortly after another found that the D.E.A. tightened the rules for prescribing hydrocodone,” the most common form of painkiller in the country,” according to the New York Times. It’s also an ingredient in drugs like Vicodin. And the article updated the number of deaths from prescription drug abuse, to more than 20,000 a year. Deaths from painkillers account for more deaths than heroin and cocaine combined.
The D.E.A.changes, the writer said, are “sweeping,” and if I calculated correctly, will become effective at the beginning of November. First, hydrocodone will move to a more restrictive category. Doctors will not be able to phone in a prescription for a patient, and patients will have to see a doctor again when a prescription runs out if they want a new prescription. Pharmacies will have to keep drugs in special vaults.
Some pain management experts are saying the new rules make it too difficult for patients with chronic pain, or those who can’t easily get to the doctor, to get their medication.
My local paper offered more details: Starting in October, pharmacies will be able to accept unused medication, so that people don’t have to go to drop-off points or flush them down the toilet or throw them in the garbage. Having local drop off points has been successful in NJ, though (who knew?).
Here’s an interesting bit of history: Twenty five years ago, George H.W. Bush kicked off the war on drugs calling it “the greatest domestic threat facing our nation today.” A Gallup poll found that most Americans thought so as well.
In September, a group of political figures from a number of countries, including several former Latin American and European presidents, proposed two things. Governments should decriminalize some drugs and set up regulated drug markets in their own countries (they seem to be talking about marijuana).
This new proposal goes further than the idea of abandoning the drug war, or even legalizing marijuana. Even now, some Latin American countries are rewriting their own drug laws, and the U.S. has been allowing states to decide their own marijuana laws. But several countries, including the U.S. and Russia, are resisting the decriminalization, it seems (and what about the Middle East, that executes drug smugglers?).
I haven’t read any commentary on the subject from political leaders who oppose the main idea, or addiction specialists. I wonder what they think. Let the debate begin.