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Worrying Trends Confronted in Prescription Drug Abuse

Physicians struggle to curb the growing number of lethal overdoses

Federal organizations have started to work on solutions as well. Last July the Food and Drug Administration began requiring drug companies to start educating doctors about the special risks of such prescription drugs. The CDC has called on states to consider monitoring Medicaid or workers' compensation claims “for signs of inappropriate use of controlled prescription drugs.” To help reduce doctor shopping, the CDC says, these state programs might in some cases consider restricting reimbursement for controlled drugs to scripts that come through only one designated prescriber per patient and one designated pharmacy.

Mycyk has started telling the ER physicians he trains that they might save more lives by asking more specific questions than the ones they learned to ask in medical school. “Don't ask, ‘Do you abuse illegal drugs?’” he says. “Most of the drugs people are using today are not illegal. A lot of them are overdosing on drugs that were prescribed by their doctor.”

Instead, Mycyk says, asking questions such as “Have you ever gotten high on cough syrup?” or “Have you ever taken a friend's or relative's pills?” will put you on the right track to more helpful responses. “Most [patients] will do all they can to help you,” he says. “In most cases, landing in the ER was an accident. They don't want to die.”

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This article was originally published with the title "Drug Detectives."

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