"There is abuse and deception in every step of the pipeline, from warehouse robberies to pharmacy holdups down to theft from people's medicine cabinets, so it's a very complex problem," Alexander said.
Another expert, Leo Beletsky, an assistant professor of law and health sciences at Northeastern University School of Law & Bouve College of Health Sciences in Boston, is concerned that government efforts to curb narcotic painkiller abuse may go too far.
"Government officials have championed a number of solutions drawn primarily from the drug enforcement playbook, such as prescription monitoring programs, prosecutions of doctors accused of over-prescribing, and pill mill raids," Beletsky said.
Focusing only on drug supply is short-sighted and dangerous, he noted. "First, it may unduly restrict legitimate patient access to effective pain care and, second, recent data suggests that cutting patients with substance abuse problems off prescription opioid medications may actually push them towards injecting heroin," Beletsky said.
"In other words, as we craft solutions to address prescription drug misuse, we must be extremely careful to avoid causing more harm than good," Beletsky added.
Along with actions to restrict supply, the answer to this problem must include wider access to substance abuse services, drug treatment, counseling and other investments in the scientifically proven ways to address substance abuse, Beletsky explained.
For more on prescription drug abuse, visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
SOURCES: Peter Delany, Ph.D., LCSW-C, director, Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration; G. Caleb Alexander, M.D., co-director, Center for Drug Safety and E
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