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Florida's New Prescription Drug Monitoring System Targets Prescription Drug Addiction And Illicit Prescription Drug Sales
The state’s new system will help physicians identify drug abusers so they can be directed towards recovery, which ideally begins with medical drug detox.
Florida, for years the largest state in the nation without a prescription drug monitoring system, has finally introduced legislation to create a statewide computerized database to track the sale of prescription drugs that lead thousands of people every year to fall victim to prescription drug addiction and abuse.
The state’s new prescription drug monitoring system has been passed by the Senate, but still requires House approval and a sign-off from the governor. If it becomes law, Florida will become the 39th state to set up a prescription drug monitoring system. As of November 2008, 38 states had enacted legislation that require prescription drug monitoring programs, and 32 of those programs were up and running, while six were in the start-up phase.
Ten other states were in the process of proposing, preparing, or considering legislation, including Arkansas, Delaware, Georgia, Maryland, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Oregon, and South Dakota. Only Wisconsin and the District of Columbia have done nothing to implement a program.
By lagging behind so many other states, Florida has become a favorite destination for illicit prescription drug buyers, both addicts and dealers, who routinely “shop” for opioid painkillers such as oxycodone, methadone, and hydrocodone, at as many as 150 storefront pain clinics operating in South Florida. Officials say 89 of those clinics are in Broward County, many more just south in Miami-Dade County, and the rest sprinkled around other southern counties.
The new system would create a statewide database to track all prescriptions for drugs listed under the Controlled Substances Act as having potential for abuse. Narcotic painkillers have trapped thousands of people in prescription drug addiction, but numerous other commonly prescribed psychoactive drugs, such as antianxiety medications and stimulants, are also controlled substances because they are also commonly abused and cause widespread harm.
According to the DEA’s Office of Diversion Control, states can use the data to identify problems and determine the extent of any diversion or abuse. The systems are also used to identify “doctor shoppers” — someone who visits numerous doctors and pharmacies attempting to obtain controlled substances.
The legislation, proposed by Sen. Mike Fasano, was unanimously approved 39-0 by the state senate. The new system will allow doctors, pharmacists and, in certain circumstances, law enforcement, to use the information to help reduce doctor shopping, the practice of going from doctor to doctor to get prescriptions for addictive medications. Doctor shopping is common among those suffering from prescription drug addiction, as well as by drug dealers trying to obtain drugs for illicit sales.
Most observers expect the new legislation to pass the House, but it isn’t a certainty. Some members are still expressing worries about that a state-run database could reveal private patient information to unauthorized individuals or agencies.
Quoted in the Miami Herald, Sen. Charlie Justice said, “I absolutely agree with the goal of this bill, but to give some bureaucrat in Tallahassee access to your medical records, it scares the heck out of me.”
Whether obtained legally or illegally, prescription drugs are the most abused drugs in the nation, killing more Americans than all traditional street drugs combined. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, more than 7 million Americans abuse prescription drugs — more than those who abuse all the common illicit drugs such as cocaine, heroin, ecstasy, hallucinogens, methamphetamines and inhalants combined. And tens of thousands are victims of prescription drug addiction who desperately need treatment.
A prescription monitoring system can’t come too soon in Florida. Prescription drug addiction and abuse is a widespread problem throughout the state. Anyone suffering from the misery of prescription drug addiction or dependency should seek immediate help at a qualified Florida medical drug detox center, one where experienced medical care is provided around the clock, and where the latest medical drug detox protocols are employed to reduce — or even eliminate — the discomforts of withdrawal from prescription drugs of all kinds.
Rod MacTaggart is a freelance writer that contributes articles on health, drug addiction and drug abuse, drug detox, and drug rehabilitation.
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