Legislation is needed to help fight pill abuse

Apr 09, 2013

A body of legislation has been introduced in Raleigh that will help local law enforcement officers better address a modern scourge, especially in Haywood County.

That scourge is the abuse of prescription drugs, something that is claiming the lives of many, especially young adults who haven’t yet experienced all the wonderful things in life.

If nothing else should attract the attention of lawmakers it is this simple fact: One in every three deaths investigated by the medical examiner is the result of prescription drugs.

One of the bills would require physicians and dentists to use the computerized reporting system already up and running in North Carolina before prescribing or dispensing narcotic-type drugs. It also requires pharmacies, which already use the system, to enter data within 24 hours. This  will impede the ability of a patient to go “doctor shopping” to get extra pills, which have a street value of roughly $1 per millligram, often between $30 and $60 a pill.

It is unfortunate that some in the medical community don’t grasp the importance of this issue and must be required through legislation to use the central controlled-substance reporting system.

For the long-term well-being of all, spending a few minutes (or assigning another) to do a quick review of a patient’s medications listed within the state system is a reasonable request. Since many who can prescribe drugs now are employed by hospitals, it is reasonable for the measure to be monitored systemwide for compliance.

Another bill would give specifically trained law enforcement officers access to the controlled-substance reporting system to speed up investigations. Currently, only 10 agents with the SBI can access the information, which impedes local investigations where officers are trying to stymie the illegal prescription trade.

There is also the issue of those within the medical community who obtain prescription medications through illegal means for their own use or for resale. The current law makes such crimes only a misdemeanor. Proposed legislation would make them a felony.

Law enforcement officers in Haywood County are making a valiant effort to track down and make a case against those individuals in our community who are preying on the addictions of others for their own profit. The statistics show they are losing ground. Two years ago, the number of prescription drug deaths was one in four.

The issue is one that the entire community needs to rally around. We not only need the legislation being put forth by Sen. Jim Davis, which will give officers more tools to address the offenses, but for everyone who lives here to become more aware of the problem.

The stakes are high. We all need to make an effort to become educated on the issue and to report suspicious activities, whether it is missing pills from legitimately prescribed medications to knowledge of an underground network where medications are being sold illegally.

Lives depend on the effective resolution to this problem.