Press-Republican

March 1, 2012

Editorial: Pass bill on drugs now


Press-Republican

---- — The Press-Republican joins the growing chorus in support of New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's proposal to assault the state's disastrous prescription-drug-abuse problem.

The AG's plan is to create an online database to report and track certain controlled substances.

The goal of the program is to enable physicians and pharmacists to provide pain medications and other legally controlled substances to patients who need them, while giving those doctors and pharmacists the information they require to head off dangerous drug interactions, identify patterns of abuse of the drugs and prevent addictions that could result from their use.

The safeguards that are in place now are regarded as weak and ineffective.

Law-enforcement officials in the North Country tell us that the abuse of prescription and other drugs is a major contributor to crime in our region. This newspaper has carried numerous stories of homes and businesses being burglarized and people being assaulted so the criminals can procure drugs either for sale or, more commonly, for use by the assailant.

Getting better control over the distribution of drugs is crucial, not only for the sake of the addicts themselves, but in the interests of safety for everyone.

The New York state chapter of the national Treatment Communities of America, which includes many famous and influential substance-abuse-treatment organizations, has strongly endorsed Schneiderman's proposal, which requires enactment by the State Legislature.

In its endorsement, the chapter said, "Arguments that suggest only slight improvements in our current approaches and systems are well-intended but insufficient. The current system is not working, which is why we see more and more people turning to our treatment programs for help. It's time to move forward with solutions that recognize that we are now in the midst of a public-health crisis.

"We hope that lawmakers will act on I-STOP (Internet System for Tracking Overprescribing) this year and that they continue to pursue policies that take significant steps to reverse this terrible trend. The attorney general's bill calling for the creation of a real-time prescription-tracking database helps to build the foundation for this comprehensive approach."

The bill would provide means to identify doctors who overprescribe certain medications and to combat prescription forgeries, along with creating the database to track prescription narcotics.

To do nothing new to combat this epidemic is unacceptable. We congratulate Schneiderman on this crucial initiative and call upon the legislature to act quickly and decisively to see that it is passed.

Our communities have endured too much intimidation for far too long because of the rampant prescription-drug-abuse problem.