Letters: Drug abuse starts with the individual
Re “Prescribers fuel drug epidemic,” March 4
The Times offers a very simplistic analysis of America’s drug dependence.
As an emergency room physician, I see many chronic-pain patients who “run out” of their allotted opiates and then run to an emergency room. I am sometimes threatened with being sued for not giving them enough opiates. Patients have, unfortunately, interpreted their right to stabilizing emergency medical conditions as a right to obtain their opiate of choice.
And don’t forget the role of patient satisfaction scores. It has been well documented in medical journals that opiate prescriptions have risen since the inclusion of the question “Was your pain adequately treated?” in virtually all patient satisfaction surveys.
It boils down to personal responsibility. Ultimately, it is individuals who misuse drugs, and their family members who help them are responsible for their addictions and deaths.
Mary Kaye Ashkenaze, MD
As someone whose family owned pharmacies going back to 1970, I know that the issue of bogus pill sales is not new, yet it is an easy problem to solve.
FOR THE RECORD:
Medication: A March 6 letter to the editor incorrectly said prescriptions for Schedule II drugs are written on triplicate forms. In fact, triplicate forms have not been used in California since 2005, when they were replaced by tamper-resistant single forms. —
Every prescription for a Schedule II drug is written by a doctor in triplicate, with one copy retained by the physician, one sent to the federal Drug Enforcement Administration and one taken by the patient to the pharmacy.
The DEA has the ability to quickly see exactly which doctor is writing prescriptions for what medications and in what quantities.
Rather than asking the pharmacist to make the call on filling a prescription, the DEA can and should simply address the doctor who is writing the prescriptions.
It has this ability, yet for some reason it does not utilize it.
The article identifies doctors as the primary source of narcotic painkillers for chronic abusers and says a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study challenges the belief that the abuse epidemic is caused largely by users getting drugs from friends and family members.
In fact, the chart that accompanies the article shows that 52.5% of abusers get their drugs from friends and relatives, while physician prescriptions account for 27.3%. The only reason physician prescriptions are the leading cause is because friends and relatives are divided into subcategories (“given by,” “bought from” and “stolen from”).
These distinctions may be worth making, but they don’t change the fact that friends and relatives are doing most of the supplying.
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