Kerlikowske’s visit will focus on prescription pill abuse. Earlier this year, Kentucky’s two largest newspapers published in-depth reports on the issue. In its series “Prescription for Tragedy,” The Courier-Journal reported more Kentuckians die from prescription pill overdoses than car crashes. In its look at “pill mills,” the Lexington Herald-Leader investigated how some counties are passing legislation to keep the faux medical clinics out of their areas.
The White House drug czar will visit Kentucky next week to investigate prescription pill abuse, a problem he called “heartbreaking.” In a four-day tour, Gil Kerlikowske, President Obama’s chief advisor on drug issues, will meet with law-enforcement officials, recovering addicts, drug-treatment workers, business leaders and politicians, Roger Alford of The Associated Press reports.
On Monday, U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky met with Kerlikowske, right, to discuss his visit. They discussed several of the state’s drug issues, including prescription drug abuse, meth production and marijuana cultivation.
Alford reports the problem drastically grew in 2000 upon the explosion in use of of OxyContin, which became known in Appalachia as the “Heroin of the Hills.” When Kentucky started maintaining narcotic monitoring systems, drug traffickers went south to Florida, where there is no such system, to buy the drug. In one raid in South Florida in the early 2000s, authorities found more than 1,000 files from patients who lived in Eastern Kentucky, the Herald-Leader found. Most recently, Florida’s Gov. Rick Scott proposed a budget that would leave a new prescription drug monitoring program unfunded. The chairman of the Health and Human Services Committee of the Florida House called the monitoring system “big brother.”
Given the tight economy, Kerlikowske said it will be important to deal with the issue in “smart ways.” “If we educate kids about the dangers of pills … if we clean out medicine cabinets in a safe way, if we get physicians more information about how to recognize addiction and how to deal with this, and then we can crack down on doctor shopping and physicians who are over-prescribing, we have huge potential to really begin to bring this under control.” (Read more)