According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 100 people die every day from prescription drug overdose. Moreover, the overall number of deaths due to opiate painkillers have quadrupled compared to the number of deaths from cocaine and heroin combined. A report the National Library of Medicine issued says nearly twenty percent of the U.S. population recreationally abuses prescription drugs. This has created a war on prescription drugs that many states have begun to participate in.
Now, the federal government has taken up the war on prescription drugs. In turn, many states have followed suit in an effort to make prescription drugs a little more difficult to prescribe. This would make them not as accessible for abuse. However a large question mark looms in the air regarding whether the government’s efforts are really going to be effective. One of the goals of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has been to prevent the mass quantities of prescription drugs that flood the black market every day, allowing individuals to purchase opiates, stimulants, and sedatives from the street and from the internet. While the efforts have paid off in stopping hundreds of fraudulent pain clinics, there is a growing concern from honest doctors if the new regulations are making it more difficult for patients with legitimate needs. In other words, is the government throwing the baby out with the bathwater? In recent years, the DEA has applied the same tactics used to shut down illegal operations. These operations have failed to abide by the strict record keeping guidelines to prevent black market supply. Among the chains to be caught in the middle are CVS and Walgreens, both cited for a breach of regulations.
Same Strategies, Different Cartel
According to Michele Leonhard, a DEA Administrator, the agency employs the same strategies used to go after the drug cartels and drug lords in the war on prescription drugs. Moreover, there is no doubt that prescription drug abuse is a real and present danger in the U.S.; however many believe that the tactics will ultimately hurt the patients who need the drugs and in the end may very well create a shortage of the prescription medications.
Congress Demands Action on the War on Prescription Drugs
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, opiate painkiller prescriptions increased from 75.5 million to 209.5 million in the last decade. Moreover, an important contributing factor to the increase are well meaning physicians who prescribe too freely. Now, the DEA has fallen under extreme pressure from Congress to do something about the problem. In addition to changes the federal government implemented, in 2012 many states enacted strict laws on physicians and pharmacies regarding prescription drugs. Whether or not the war on prescription drugs will be a victory is any body’s guess. We will just have to wait and see.
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