Rx Drugs Taking a Higher Toll

Prescription drug abuse is a growing concern among healthcare and law enforcement officials, as more addicts get their high from legal drugs. Two recent events pinpoint both sides of the problem. In Florida, a report from the Florida Medical Examiners Commission revealed that three times as many Floridians died from abuse of prescription drugs as those who overdosed on illegal drugs like cocaine and heroin.

Prescription drug abuse is a growing concern among healthcare and law enforcement officials, as more addicts get their high from legal drugs. Two recent events pinpoint both sides of the problem. In Florida, a report from the Florida Medical Examiners Commission revealed that three times as many Floridians died from abuse of prescription drugs as those who overdosed on illegal drugs like cocaine and heroin.

According to the report, cocaine, heroin, or methamphetamines were the cause of 989 deaths. Deaths from prescription painkillers like Vycodin and OxyContin, on the other hand, numbered 2,328, while deaths from anti-depressants like Valium and Xanax reached 743. The report also showed that abuse of prescription painkillers like oxycodone increased by 36% over the previous year. The results led Florida’s Office of Drug Control to call for a statewide monitoring effort to curb the improper use of prescription drugs.

Meanwhile, in Washington State, a recent lawsuit by the advocacy group Pain Relief Network shows that implementing tough guidelines on prescribing painkillers can be a rocky road. The State’s regulations, which apply only to chronic pain and not acute pain, specify that a patient’s daily intake of painkilling prescription drugs should not exceed 120 milligrams of morphine or its equivalent. The Pain Relief Network suit claims that the regulations make doctors afraid to prescribe pain medications. It also charges that, as insurance companies and other states adopt them, Washington’s rules have become the nationwide norm for pain drug regulation.