JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. - Prescription drug abuse is a growing problem, and the state of Tennessee is trying to do something about it.
The next time you get a prescription for pain medication, your doctor is going to check out your history before signing the prescription pad. The Tennessee Department of Health now requires all prescribers to check the controlled substance monitoring database when a patient asks for a painkiller or controlled substance lasting more than seven days.
The check helps them make sure you haven't received the same drug recently from another pharmacy. "These are any controlled substances, Schedule II through V; that includes a wide variety of medicines from pain to anti-anxiety," said Dr. Andrew Brown.
Dr. Brown tells us if a patient shows up with a history of prescriptions, it raises a red flag and they file paper work for the police to investigate.
Kingsport Officer Tom Patton tells us his department investigates dozens of calls each year involving prescription drugs. "When we catch someone in the act, it's a much simpler investigation. But when we have to identify who is doing it and how they're going about trying to obtain it, it is lengthy," said Patton.
Patton says that's because they don't have enough people to investigate all the cases. "It's one of those things where we have lots and lots of cases and only a limited amount of manpower," said Patton.
He says the regulations might not help the problem as much as they would like. "I don't know if there will be a huge difference in the number of people caught. I think the idea in this legislation is to prevent it from happening," said Patton.
Dr. Brown says it will be a burden on healthcare providers and take time away from other patients. "You have to log on, enter the patient's name and birthday. It's something that does take a little time to do," said Brown.
Brown says for those who need the medication for chronic pain, it will still be available to them. "You can still get it; it's just going to be more closely monitored. This is for people going to multiple providers and multiple pharmacies," said Brown. This is a practice also known as 'doctor shopping.'
We checked with the Tennessee Department of Health; they told us they will be closely watching the database not only people getting the prescriptions, but also for doctors and nurses prescribing them.
The spokesperson said if they see unusual activity, they would investigate.