Prescription painkiller abuse and opiate addiction has been at epidemic levels for the past few years. The increase in use has caused so much devastation to families across the country. Due to the amount of lives affected by opiates, there have been new security measures taken to help curb the opiate abuse.
In the past five years we have seen different programs put into place to protect doctors and patients from abusing prescription painkillers. Many states have implemented prescription monitoring systems. These systems require a pharmacist to register each prescription to a patient using their social security number. This has put a huge dent in doctor shopping which is when a patient goes to multiple doctors to receive multiple prescriptions for narcotics. Before prescription monitoring systems became a reality, the black market was flooded with prescription painkillers from doctor shoppers.
A popular brand of oxycodone medication called Oxycontin was one of the most heavily abused opiates. Oxycontin had an extended release pill which was easily crushed for abuse. Abusers would crush the pill, which would turn the extended release into an immediate release. With no Acetaminophen in the medication, abusers would chew, snort and inject the powder to get a strong euphoric high. Due to the huge abuse of Oxycontin it gained attention from addicts and dealers, which lead the government, state officials and the FDA to review the medication. Due to the massive abuse of Oxycontin, it was reformulated to be a new "tamper proof" pill. When the pill is crushed, instead of turning into a powder, the pill would turn into a gel-like material making it hard to inject, or snort. The new Oxycontin formulated pill was called “OP”, and was released in August of 2010. This put a damper on the black market for opiate based painkillers.
The state of New Jersey will be changing the way patients receive their prescription medications. Patients have been given a blue prescription form with their doctors orders for decades. These forms are easily tampered with. Addicts have been known to steal prescription pads from doctors, print their own forms, or to alter the forms they receive from their doctor. The practice of forging and tampering with prescription pads may be over. Over the next six months, New Jersey will be implementing new slips. The new slips with have security measures similar to our currency to help stop fraud. The authentic forms will have new heat-activated ink that will appear in a small Rx logo which will appear and disappear when touched or when heat is applied. The word VOID will be invisible on a genuine prescription form, but will appear when scanned or copied. Lastly, a barcode and matching 15-digit identification number will enable pharmacists to scan prescription data into the N.J. Prescription Monitoring Program, which records and stores sales of controlled substances. This will allow doctors and pharmacists to help stop doctor shopping as well as check for medication interactions.
The technology being used to deter abusers from using prescription painkillers is outstanding. I do however have to be honest when it comes to opiates. The trend for these drugs is one that shifts. If prescription painkillers are hard to come by, the growth of heroin skyrockets. That is exactly what we are seeing now. I love the changes being made to help the prescription pill problem, but we should never lose focus of it's close counterpart, heroin.