6 Ways You Can Fight the Prescription Abuse Epidemic

New Law Will Curb Prescription Abuse, but New Yorkers Must Also Do Their Part

ALBANY, NY (08/29/2012)(readMedia)-- The days of getting numerous prescriptions from different doctors are gone, but everyone must help to stop the epidemic of prescription abuse. Governor Cuomo this week authorized a database to track patients who bounce from doctor to doctor accumulating prescription drugs like oxycodone. The practice of "doctor-shopping" feeds addiction to prescription drugs and often leads to greater availability of powerful narcotics in the streets.

The deadly epidemic of prescription addiction is sweeping the nation, killing more people than car crashes or murder. In New York state, oxycodone prescriptions rose by 82 percent from 2007 to 2010.

"Prescription abuse is destroying the lives of New Yorkers, bringing them into vicious cycles they can't get out of," said Jack Houston, chairman of the New York Alliance Against Insurance Fraud. Illegal prescriptions often are obtained through insurance fraud schemes involving health insurance, auto coverage and workers compensation.

Last year, roughly one prescription was filled for every four people. In 2010, 31 Staten Islanders died of "unintentional opioid analgesic poisoning," up from 28 deaths in 2009, according to city Health Department statistics. However, prescription drug abuse is not exclusively an urban problem. Case data suggest that the problem is just as severe in the suburbs and rural areas of the state.

Under the new law, doctors and pharmacists must check a real-time registry maintained by the state Health Department before they dispense powerful medicine. They also must promptly report the addictive prescriptions they prescribe and dispense. "The governor and legislature should be commended for addressing one of our most severe medical problems in the state," Houston said.

While consumers pay for prescription fraud in the way of higher insurance premiums, prescription addicts often pay with their lives.

"While the government is acting fast to address the problem, consumers can help curb prescription addiction from developing under their own roof," says the NYAAIF's Houston.

Here are six tips to prevent prescription addiction:

  1. Don't share medicine with friends or family, and don't sell leftover medication.
  2. After surgery, monitor prescription ingestion closely to be sure that only what is absolutely needed is used, and not more.
  3. Dispose of all unused medication.
  4. Watch for signs of addiction or experimentation in your friends and children: inability to concentrate, changes in personality, apathy, social withdrawal, lack of energy, nausea, vomiting, slowed breathing, lack of interest in treatment options other than medications.
  5. Don't underestimate the grave power of unsupervised narcotics, helpful medications for one person may be fatal for another.
  6. If someone you know is addicted, talk to them about rehabilitation. Report prescription abuse by calling 1-877-RxAbuse.

"Prescription addiction begins in our own medicine cabinets," says Houston. "Learn the signs of addiction and the steps for prevention...Prescription fraud steals from your wallets, and takes away lives...You've got to know it to stop it."

Follow the fraud fight on Facebook and Twitter. Visit www.fraudny.com for more info.

The New York Alliance Against Insurance Fraud is a non-profit organization that seeks to increase public awareness about insurance fraud and its consequences. Membership includes more than 100 insurance companies writing policies in New York State.


Jennifer Tchinnosian