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Prescription Drug Monitoring Systems to Help Curb Opiate Abuse

Opiate based painkillers cause the most overdose deaths out of any drug in the United States. Opioids are widely abused by many people across the country from both painkillers and heroin. Many people get their first taste of opiates from either their doctor (from a pulled or sprained muscle, dental work, or back problems) of by finding painkillers in a friend or family's medicine cabinet. Leaving these medications in your medicine cabinet opens the opportunity for others to find and abuse them.  Opiate painkillers have been in the news due to their gaining popularity. The problem is that when these pills fall into the wrong hands, they can be extremely deadly. 

When opiates are taken when no pain is present, they provide a feeling of euphoria. This feeling can easily make a person want to experience this over and over leading to the vicious cycle of addiction. As the person uses opiates, tolerance builds quickly and more pills are needed to get the same euphoric feeling. When an opiate addict runs out of pills and can not get more, they will experience opiate withdrawal which can be extremely unpleasant.  The feelings that an addict goes through while facing opiate withdrawal can be very uncomfortable, to the point that the addict will do anything to make the withdrawals go away. This includes making the switch from painkillers to heroin, which is cheaper and in many places easier to get.

Due to the over-prescribing of narcotic painkillers by healthcare physicians, plus the growing black market sales of these drugs, state governments have stepped in to create different ways to help combat the opiate issue. A term that has become very popular in the addiction community is known as “doctor shopping.” This is when patients or drug dealers will go to multiple medical doctors looking to receive multiple prescriptions for painkillers. They will go to as many doctors as they can to get the prescriptions filled for either their own abuse or for sale on the black market. With pain pills going for about $1 per mg on the black market, a single prescription can sell on the street for as much as $5000.  The dangers of getting caught is curbed by the insane profit margins and the need for the addicts to get their next "fix".

To combat the doctor shopping issue in the country, many states have started to implement Prescription Drug Monitoring Systems also known as (PDMS). These state programs take information from the patient and put it into a database. This database has information about which doctors the patient has seen, what medications have been prescribed, and how much medication has been filled for each patient. This new PDMS system is an outstanding tool to target prescription abuse and illegal activity. These systems are one of the main reasons why the painkiller black market has been downsized dramatically over the past few years. As states show positive results from the implementation of their PDMS systems, other states will follow.

Many politicians oppose the bills to make these systems a reality in their states. They believe that citizens have the right to the privacy of their medications and doctor visits. I can see where this may be the case for some, but I feel this system plays an important role in helping to curb opiate addiction.  This system helps to protect doctors from crooked patients, cut down on liability, track "dirty" doctors from over-prescribing opiates, and help keep more pills off the street.

The monitoring program will not lessen the medications a patient is prescribed. It will simply let doctors and pharmacies know what prescriptions the patient is currently taking, and keep patients from getting multiple opiate prescriptions from different doctors. I believe this is a great system and hopeful that more states will follow to implement more PDMS systems.


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