Despite efforts to decrease the number of deaths and overdoses related to narcotic medications, such as OxyContin, and minimize the number of people illegally obtaining them, the measures that the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) in specific are taking are not enough. The literal definition of a narcotic is a drug that produces numbness or stupor; often taken for pleasure or to reduce pain; extensive use can lead to addiction. Narcotics are normally prescription medications that are given to patients to help ease the constant pain cause by cancer or other long term illnesses.
When one in 10 high school senior’s reports abusing prescription painkillers, the DEA is obligated to protect our children and the public safety” says Karen P. Tandy administrator of the DEA(1). Tandy is saying that when the abuse of prescription pain medication is taking over that many students the DEA must step in for the sake of future generations. There is a long process that not many average Americans know about that all pharmaceutical products, especially addictive medications have to go through before they reach home medicine cabinets. This process is called “Diversion”.
It is an important chain like process that the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) have been using for years to look at where highly addictive drugs, like OxyContin, go and who they come into contact with. From the pharmaceutical company that literally make the product, to the drug wholesalers that sell the product, and then into the hands of doctors and pharmacies who prescribe and distribute the medications. The purpose of diversion is to take the information and look for certain situations where drugs were lost, stolen, or illegally distributed and give proper punishment to those people.
The problem of abusing prescription narcotics became noticeably out of control in the 1990’s. The problem lies in the fact that it is 2005 and the numbers of overdoses and deaths have been and are still rising at astonishing rates. An argument however, that many people have about advancing restrictions on OxyContin and other schedule 2 narcotics is that the needed process that one might have to go through in order to properly obtain the drug would be an invasion of privacy. ” Some believe that reporting the serious reasoning behind needing to take the drug to someone other then their doctor is a violation of their rights.
This is a valid point made by many but as Dr. John H. Burton puts it in his written testimony on The Escalating Abuse of Prescription Medications, “Cooperation must be facilitated and encouraged between methadone treatment facilities, public health agencies, and law enforcement and medical providers. In order to do achieve this, attention must be directed to sharing critical information while protecting the public’s interest in safety and simultaneously patient and victim interests in privacy. 4) What people need to understand is that these drugs are so powerful that people taking them must be qualified and may need to be monitored. In the interest of every human’s well-being anyone taking these drugs for authorized clinical reasons should be willing to make the sacrifice. The DEA has been trying for so long to prevent robberies, thefts and doctors from prescribing medications illegally, but the actions they have been taking are not enough. Despite their efforts there are still way to many illegally techniques used to obtain OxyContin and they are succeeding, drastically.
Abusers have been getting their hands on these drugs via pharmacists, physicians, doctor shopping, thefts and robberies, the internet, organizations, and foreign distribution. Physicians and pharmacists will use their ability to prescribe the medications to either use it themselves or distribute illegally to someone else. Doctor shopping has become increasingly popular among users because it does not involve much work. The network formed between abusers has become incredible.
Abusers will go around from doctor to doctor looking for someone to prescribe them what they are looking for and they will not stop until they find one who will. Then report back to this “network” on who would and would not prescribe the medications. Foreign distribution has also become a huge problem. Because foreign companies operate outside United States laws there are not many ways that the DEA or the Government in general can do to prevent it. The disturbing part is how much the number of dosage units sent to foreign countries has increased.
In 1998 an approximate 5,000 grams were sent from Purdue Pharma L. P. Laboratories in Totowa, New Jersey to Mexico and Canada, but the number jumped to 89,000 grams in 2000. How many of those grams are being “diverted to illicit markets in the United States”? (NDAS, 4) If the DEA were to create a system to better regulate prescription narcotics who would be the person to judge another’s pain, and what qualifies someone to do so? This perplexing question arises when realizing that there needs to be a better system for tracking drug distribution.
To answer this question, it is not particularly necessary to “someone” or another person to judge another’s pain, to do so without proper understanding of a person’s condition or approval would be immoral. However, what if we could create some sort of a timed device that would dispense a pill or a form of the medication as they do with morphine in the hospitals, limiting how much morphine can be implemented to a patient. “The growing abuse of OxyContin, commonly known as Oxy’s, OC’s, Killers, Poor Man’s Heroin, and Hillbilly Heroin, is leading to an increase in burglaries, thefts, and robberies of residences and pharmacies. (NDAS, 1)
The reason the OxyContin is called Hillbilly Heroin or the Poor Man’s Heroin is because of the same euphoric high one gets from using heroin without the excruciating withdrawal symptoms. OxyContin is similarly related to other drugs such as codeine, methadone, and morphine. The abuse of OxyContin, a Schedule 2 narcotic, warrants the need for stricter regulations or distribution controls because of the increasing popularity the opiate effects has on people. Purdue Pharma L. P. troduced OxyContin to the market because its longer lasting 12 hour pain relief. And by 2000 OxyContin became “the number one prescribed Schedule 2 narcotic in the United States. “(NDAS, 1)
Not only has the abuse of OxyContin led to serious over doses because of miss use and improper knowledge about the drug, but it has also led to horrific car crashes as well. “Over the last two yearsthe number of patients in motor vehicle crashes who are methadone impaired,'” says John H. Burton, MD Medical Director for Maine Emergency Medical Services. ) To think that the problem of abusing any kind of drug would just disappear with one solution is naive and absurdly optimistic. However, to think that all the DEA is doing right now to prevent harmfully addictive and destructive medications is enough is plain ignorant. The DEA has made substantial progress toward making OxyContin and other prescribed narcotics less available for abusers. But first hand accounts and shocking statistics prove that these measures are clearly not enough.
It is true and will always be true that free will is a legitimate part of this equation. The abuse of any kind of drug is almost guaranteed to be present at all times no matter how hard the government tries. If a person wants it they will have it. The fact also remains that people with addictions cannot control themselves or their addictions, that’s why it is called an addiction. Therefore making it the partial obligation of the DEA and the government to not only recognize this desperate need for restrictions but do something more about it.