Painkiller Prescriptions Vary Widely Among States
Death toll can be reduced with better oversight, agency says, citing success in Florida
The Florida state Legislature in 2010 implemented laws that strengthened regulation of pain clinics, which had been a major source of questionable narcotic drug prescriptions, the CDC said. The clinics had to register with the state, and were prohibited from dispensing narcotic painkillers from their offices.
Law enforcement followed up with a series of high-profile raids across the state.
All drug overdose deaths in Florida -- including prescription and illicit drugs -- decreased 18 percent from 2010 to 2012. And that dramatic decline occurred even though the death rate from heroin overdoses more than doubled in the same time period.
The CDC said states that want to get serious about tackling prescription drug abuse can:
- Improve use of prescription drug monitoring programs, which can identify doctors and pharmacies that appear to be overprescribing narcotic painkillers.
- Tighten regulation of pain clinics.
- Increase people's access to substance abuse treatment.
But even more effective would be a nationwide prescription monitoring database that crosses state lines, Khan said. He has access to New York's prescription monitoring database, but finds it of limited use in checking his patients' medication use.
"As a large portion of my patients reside in New Jersey or Connecticut, and therefore have their prescriptions filled there as well, these patients do not show up in the database at this time," Khan said.
Medical schools also can help by providing more training in addiction to future doctors, said Janina Kean, president and CEO of High Watch Recovery Center in Kent, Conn.
"Sometimes they have a single lecture in medical school on addiction, and that's it," Kean said. "They should have a significant rotation where they are trained in addiction medicine, so they can spot the warning signs in their patients."