Oklahoma Database Tracks Pain Killer Abuse, But Are Doctors Using It?
TULSA, Oklahoma - The Bureau of Narcotics says drug overdose cases are getting out of control and something must be done.
What might surprise you is most of those deaths don't come from drugs like meth or cocaine, but prescription pain killers.
An electronic database helps track the drugs in Oklahoma, but are enough doctors using it? One doctor who says it works well for him.
The Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics just started using the monitoring system in 'real time. That means a doctor can look up the prescription profile of a patient to find out if they might be doctor shopping.
The mostly commonly prescribed pain killers--Vicodin, oxycontin, and methadone—are actually killing Oklahomans.
The numbers speak volumes about prescription drug abuse in the Sooner State.
In 2010, the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics reports there were 715 overdose deaths. That number skyrocketed by 108 percent over nine years. A staggering 81 percent of those deaths were from prescription drugs.
Because of those numbers, Oklahoma ranks number one in the nation for painkiller abuse, and ninth for overdose deaths.
"The amount they initially need to feel better, not for pain but some anxiety or emotional issue. The tolerance goes up quickly. And they need more and more and more. They then become physically dependent and emotionally addicted," said Dr. Frank Hackl of Tulsa Integrated Pain Services.
To fight the overdose crisis, the Bureau of Narcotics launched a prescription monitoring program in 2006.
"You can see what pharmacies they've received narcotics from, you can see what doctors prescribed them to them and what the prescriptions were," said Dr. Hackl.
Almost 70 percent of Doctors in the state use the system. Dr Frank Hackl is one of them. But 30 percent do not.
"It may be that some of them are not aware of the program but it also costs money to use it. They don't charge us but you have to have staff that put in the information, print it off, review it," Dr. Hackl said.
The OBN says the more doctors and pharmacies use the intervention tool, the more lives will be saved from prescription drug overdoses.
Doctor Hackl says although the prescription monitoring program is a wonderful intervention tool, patients can still go to other states to get narcotics and come back here.