Mark Kleiman comments on the White House plan to make the abuse of diverted pharmaceuticals a major target for drug enforcement.
Actually, this looks like a good move to me….
There are some complicated issues around doctor-shopping and script-kiting, which are the other major sources of diverted pills. The trick is to make life harder for the scammers without making it harder for the legitimate patients.
But it’s good to see the drug czar’s office focusing, for once, on a real problem where there might be some real solutions.
I have to disagree with Mark on this one. I’m not at all heartened by the shift (or additional emphasis) toward prescription drug abuse.
- First of all, any possible thought that enforcement will be focused on stolen or diverted drugs is delusional. What will happen is that enforcement will go after doctors who have a different idea of pain management than the DEA has — it’s much easier to go after people who are listed in the phone book (just consider the major “investigations” of medical marijuana coops in California, and bong manufacturers) than actual criminals.
- I am very uncomfortable with federal enforcement determining what proper pain management is for patients. A crackdown in this area is going to increase the pressure on doctors to be more conservative with pain medication — at the expense of patients’ health and lives. The proper regulation of pain prescriptions is through medical licensing organizations, not federal law enforcement.
- Even the efforts against diversion of prescription drugs are problematic. Just like all other prohibition efforts, if the feds are at all successful at arresting those who are making drugs available on the black market, then the prices will rise and increase the attractiveness for organized criminals to get involved in prescription drugs.
If the feds want to be useful in this area, the best thing they can do is educate people as to the dangers of using prescription drugs without the advice of a doctor.
Update: This piece by Anthony Gregory, with the Independent Institute, covers the situation well in my opinion.
Millions of people in the United States suffer from chronic pain, and much of that suffering cannot be relieved adequately by existing treatments. Patients are in desperate need of new pain management approaches.
Some of pain management is controlled by the drug worriers. Their solom duty to serve infallible policy and protect citizens from going one iota beyond pain relief, into getting high. Or religious zealot politikans. Henry Hyde and Jeckyll tried to outlaw any non FDA approved herbs, or over medicating to possibly cause Dignity in Dying. Heroin reaches pain faster than morphine but the Church frowns on the ill or infirmed enjoying the experience. Pretty damn hard to repent in that state. Morphine or Codine is a Downer and causes nausea, constipation. OK for some Stones and Blues tunes. Generally apathetic. Like they’re supposed to be.
“The voters in this country
should not be expected to decide
which medicines are safe and effective.”
~ xDrug CzarBarry McCaffrey
“If people let government decide
which foods they eat and medicines they take,
their bodies will soon be in as sorry a state
as are the souls of those who live under tyranny…”
~ Thomas Jefferson