Prescription drug abuse is a major problem throughout the United States. New York state and Northern New York are no exceptions to what is being called an epidemic.
It is possible and not too difficult to attain prescription drugs from several sources. A person intent on abusing such drugs can use more than one doctor and more than one pharmacy to provide the substances.
Currently in New York, doctors and pharmacies have no way of checking whether they are being used to overprescribe drugs to an addict relying on numerous providers to feed an addiction or, in the case of a trafficker, an illegal business.
That would change with passage of legislation promoted by state Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman. The attorney general is proposing creation of a database that would keep track of the prescription and distribution of frequently abused controlled substances.
The idea for an Internet System for Tracking Overprescribing (I-STOP) has drawn much support in Congress as well as from state legislators. Many law enforcement officials and health care experts are on board as well.
The attorney general cites one case of a woman in the Bronx who forged more than 250 prescriptions and arranged for them to be filled at pharmacies throughout the state. Closer to home, the office has shown that the opiate hydrocodone was the most frequently prescribed controlled drug in Jefferson, St. Lawrence and Franklin counties from 2008 to 2010, and the opiate oxycodone was second.
A report released earlier this year showed that crisis admissions to treatment programs for the abuse of opiates have increased significantly in Northern New York in recent years. Violent crimes and suicides linked to prescription drug abuse are part of the grim picture.
Having a centralized database to track prescription drug purchases and use would help the medical profession avoid overprescribing and identify abusers in need of treatment.
It is hoped that such a system would not overburden doctors with more red tape but make it more difficult to attain prescription drugs for illegal and harmful purposes. Attorney General Schneidermans idea deserves support.