Feds target prescription drug abuse in Tampa
According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), prescription drug abuse is one of the largest drug problems in the country. Only marijuana and â€œdrug related deaths for both Oxycodone and Hydrocodone in Florida exceed those for heroin.â€
The director of the ONDCP was in Tampa today to publicize programs that aim to reduce prescription drug abuse.
The Drug Abuse Comprehensive Coordinating Office (DACCO) in Tampa hosted a press conference with Drug Czar John P. Walters this afternoon. Mary Lynn Ulrey, CEO of DACCO, spoke about the countryâ€™s increasing problem with prescription drug abuse.
The ONDCP was in town to stress programs in Tampa for training physicians to prescribe prescription drugs appropriately and how to screen patients for prescription drug abuse and dependence.
Walters said 33 states have prescription-monitoring programs funded by the federal government to guard against abuse.
Siobhan Reynolds is president of Pain Relief Network, an advocacy group. She doesnâ€™t trust the governmentâ€™s motivations regarding the prescription-monitoring program.
Reynolds said the legal system does not make the distinction between a patientâ€™s physical dependency on a drug and addiction.
Liz Harden is the Chief Operating Officer of DACCO. She said â€œsubstance abuse is a medical condition.â€ Harden spoke about two programs to cut down on prescription drug abuse in certain at-risk segments of the population. One is the BRITE program aimed at senior citizens; the other is called Zero Exposure.
Often people who have the medical condition of substance abuse or addiction commit crimes. Walters said drug treatment courts could be an alternative to criminalizing the actions of those people, but he said Congress needs to appropriate the proper amount of money.
Reynolds said drug courts could still lead to people going to jail who are just trying to relieve their pain.
The Tampa Bay areaâ€™s most well known example of a chronic pain patient who was put in prison for drug trafficking is Richard Paey. Paey served more than three years of a 25-year sentence before being pardoned by Gov. Charlie Crist in September.
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