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East County Wednesday, Mar. 9, 2011 6 years ago

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR: Drug-monitoring program


+ Program repeal shocks local resident

Dear Editor:

I am shocked by Gov. Rick Scott’s indifference to the ramifications of his decision to appeal the drug monitoring bill.

I know he is aware of the statistics: 85% of the Oxycontin sold in the United States is sold in Florida and that Florida sells more than 10 times as many Oxycontin pills as any other state in the country. He is also aware of the fact that at least seven Floridians die each day from prescription-drug overdoses. These figures do not speak to all the other deaths occurring across our country that are related to prescription-drug abuse.

These are just statistics. However, behind each figure is a personal story. Our daughter, Rachel, was born and raised in Sarasota. She graduated with honors from Riverview High School. She was a healthy, 100-pound, 21-year-old when an unscrupulous doctor prescribed 180 Oxycontin, 80 methadone and 30 Xanax a month for vague complaints of back pain. It wasn’t long before she required more pills and discovered she could go to multiple doctors and for $200 cash get more drugs.

After six years, she found there were plenty of these physicians willing to give her the pills that robbed her of her life. However, we were unable to find the help she needed. Our once beautiful daughter saw only one way out. In August 2010, she hanged herself.

For those of us whose lives have been shattered by this epidemic — we had one hope, and that was the drug-monitoring bill. It would have shut down the “Oxy Express” that delivers pills throughout our nation.

Kathy Zehr
East Sarasota

+ PDMP crucial to Florida’s welfare

Dear Editor:

Gov. Rick Scott’s decision to repeal the prescription drug monitoring program shows a lack of concern for the safety and welfare of the people of Florida.

Seven people die every day because of prescription drugs. Every day, babies are born addicted to powerful painkillers. The Florida Alcohol and Drug Abuse Association estimates the costs of substance-exposed newborns at $1.4 million per child in lifetime expenses. Overall, drug abuse costs our state $2.6 million every hour.

Florida’s pill mills are at the root of this epidemic. These facilities cause heartbreak in families, ruin communities and rob the future of our youth. They burden our courts, drain our healthcare system, and create lifelong addicts.

The PDMP is one of the most effective tools to address this crisis. Evaluations confirm that PDMPs are effective in closing pill mills and reducing doctor shopping. Out-of-state license plates at our pill mills are further testimony to the success of PDMPs in other states.

Each day spent searching for excuses to repeal the PDMP ends with another seven dead. When will the body count end?

Wendy B. Nebrija
Lakewood Ranch

+ Coalition members speak in Washington

Dear Editor:

Manatee County Substance Abuse Coalition sent five members to Washington, D.C., recently to attend the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America Leaders Forum.

The purpose of the trip was clear, and the women had a mission: Talk with national leaders about Florida’s need to have a prescription drug-monitoring program. Four of the women are mothers who have been impacted by prescription drug abuse. They needed to educate national leaders. Two of the mothers (one from Sarasota and one from Bradenton) lost their sons to oxycodone; another (from Lakewood Ranch) has a son in his sixth treatment center for prescription-drug abuse. The mother from Palmetto has a daughter in prison because of her addiction to prescription drugs. The daughter has lost her freedom and her two children, one born while she was on methadone. The child, now 4 years old, is developmentally delayed, and his grandmother knew what to say when she arrived at Sen. Mark Rubio’s and Sen. Bill Nelson’s offices.

I wonder if your readers know the number of infants treated for withdrawal symptoms in Florida hospitals increased 173% between 2006 and 2009, and 636 cases were reported in the first half of 2010.

Furthermore, treatment admissions for prescription opioid addiction increased five-and-one-half times in Florida in the past decade. Among those ages 12 to 30, the number of prescription opioid treatment clients rose from 488 in 1999 to 7,649 in 2009 — a 1,467% increase.

We have a crisis in this state — an epidemic of prescription-drug abuse. Florida is only one of 12 states that does not have a system to stop the doctor shopping and the pill mills. That is what the prescription drug monitoring program would do.

While I was in Washington, a DEA agent leading a workshop said, “Florida doesn’t give a damn.” The women I traveled with stood up and said, “We’re from Florida and we do.” We handed out cards that identified a state of emergency and asked supporters to call their elected officials and request a national congressional hearing on prescription-drug abuse. Because I am one who cares, I have written to Gov. Rick Scott about a PDMP and urge your readers to do the same. Do you care?

Remember: For every $1 we spend on prevention, we save $10 on treatment costs.

Sharon Kramer, executive director
Manatee County Substance Abuse Coalition

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