Prescription drug abuse continues to plague Americans in all 50 states, and effective measures to combat the problem appear to be a double edged sword. On the one hand: prescription drug monitoring programs and more cautious prescribing practices have served to reduce abuse and/or overdoses. On the other hand: effective harm reduction policies are making it harder for those with legitimate chronic pain to get the medications they need.
Florida was once considered to be the easiest place to acquire prescription opioids, such as OxyContin ® (oxycodone), due to a plethora of “pill mills” (pain management clinics that will dispense narcotics onsite) and overprescribing doctors. In an attempt to reverse the trend, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) came down on the state with a firm hand, shutting down more than 250 pill mills, PBS NewsHour reports.
The DEA went after doctors and pharmacies that were, what the agency considered, writing and dispensing too many pills. The nationwide pharmacies, CVS and Walgreens, paid civil penalties for record-keeping violations of the Controlled Substances Act. Walgreens paid an $80 million penalty and CVS paid an $11 million penalty, according to the article.
The result, pharmacies were warned to not cross DEA dispensing ceilings, or face penalties. In Florida, an independent pharmacy owner in Jacksonville, Bill Napier, says the amount of drugs he needs to supply his clients is not being provided by drug wholesalers who supply his store. What’s more, the DEA approached Napier last year regarding the amount narcotics he dispensed.
“They showed me a number, and they said that if I wasn’t closer to the state average, they would come back. So I got pretty close to the state average,” he said. “I turn away sometimes 20 people a day.”
The acting deputy administrator of the DEA, Jack Riley, claims that his agency is not to blame for the medication rationing, according to the article.
“I’m not a doctor. We do not practice medicine. We’re not pharmacists. We obviously don’t get involved in that,” he said. “What we do do is make sure the people that have the licenses are as educated as possible as to what we’re seeing, and that they can make informed decisions as they do dispense.”
If you are currently struggling with opioids and are in need of help, please do not hesitate to contact Harmony Foundation to begin the journey of recovery. Harmony is a state-of-the-art, affordable, residential addiction treatment program located in the Rocky Mountains.