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San Diego Physicians Tackling Prescription Drug Abuse

More than 100 San Diego physicians registered on Friday to the state's prescription drug-monitoring database to help prevent pills from falling into the hands of addicts and dealers.

OxyContin is one of the most common prescription drugs abused by teens.
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Above: OxyContin is one of the most common prescription drugs abused by teens.

More people in San Diego die of prescription drug overdoses than from car crashes, homicides and suicides, according to a 2012 report card on prescription drug abuse by the Drug Abuse Task Force. Prescription drug-related fatalities increased 27 percent over the last five years.

But not all overdoses stem from abuse. Many are accidental. Some people take so many different medications that they eventually succumb, said Roneet Lev, chairman of the Prescription Drug Abuse Medical Task Force and emergency physician at Scripps Mercy Hospital.

"In California, we prescribe 6.2 kg of pain pills per 10,000 of population, which is enough to medicate every single American 'round the clock for a month," said Lev.

Lev said an average of one San Diegan per day dies from a drug overdose. That's why San Diego physicians are being encouraged to registered to the state’s drug monitoring database, the Controlled Substance Utilization Review and Evaluation System (CURES).

The more doctors who register, the healthier the community will be, said Tom Lenox, supervisory special agent of the Drug Enforcement Administration.

"Cause when a physician sees there’s an abusive pattern or addictive pattern, they will be able to refer those patients into some type of a treatment program for one of the issues they have, which is addiction. They may have an underlying health issue, that needs to be looked at also,“ said Lenox.

The prescription drugs that are killing the most people are Methadone, Oxycodone, Valium, Hydrocodone, Morphine and Xanax, according to the Drug Abuse Task Force.

The pain medications can be highly addictive for some and they're also pricey. So when an addict can no longer afford the prescriptions, some turn to a cheaper alternative: heroin, according to county health officials.

The CURES database contains more than 100 million entries of controlled substance drugs that were dispensed in California.

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Avatar for user 'Anon11'

Anon11 | April 14, 2013 at 9:57 a.m. ― 3 years, 10 months ago

Just say NO!

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Avatar for user 'mohammad ashori'

mohammad ashori | April 25, 2013 at 4:46 p.m. ― 3 years, 10 months ago

As physicians we are responsible for making sure that these drugs don't fall into the wrong hands, we are responsible to differentiate between those who are lying about their symptoms and those truly in pain. When we do identify patients who are abusing all we can do is recommend for them to go to a rehab program. Patients who doctor shop in order to accumulate large amounts of these pills for resale and those patients who are on disability or depressed and use these medications for self medication have no incentive to go into rehab. I don't think making the physician the gatekeeper of an addictive substance is wise or effective. Physicians can get sued for not adequately controlling someone's pain and can also get sued for overprescribing that same medication.
At some point physician will stop caring and will only do the bare minimum in order to stay employed.

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