Prescription pill poppers are to be checked by a new Oklahoma law that includes the carrying of prescription medicines for non-medical use as trafficking. The law will prevail as long as it is approved by the Oklahoma Senate. The author of the bill, State Representative Pat Ownby, a Republican, received unanimous support in the House. The motivation for the new law is expressed by Ownby: “Drugs are marketed as one product and turn out to be another. It leads to overdoses and addictions.”
Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Director, R. Darrell Weaver, is in full support of the law. He stated that it is important to fight those who would make a profit from someone else’s misery. Weaver commended Representative Ownby for addressing this state-wide problem.
Ownby said the four drugs added to the criminal code are contributors to the most deaths in Oklahoma. Those are oxycodone, morphine, benzodiazepines and hydrocodone. To be enforceable, the person must have in his possession 1000 grams of a morphine mixture, 400 grams of a hydrocodone mixture, 50 grams of an oxycodone substance or 15 grams of a benzodiazepine compound.
The punishment for offenders could be a $100,000-$500,000 fine and prison time. Subsequent violations would carry additional prison time. In Oklahoma, the prescription pill poppers are to be checked by stopping the pushers who sell them.
The new law brings up a triple theory of why prescription drugs have become such an abused substance across the country. Do the abusers get the drugs from family and friends for free, from doctors who neglect or drug from sellers for a profit?
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) would say that mostly family and friends supply a free ride to those who misuse prescription drugs. Their study revealed that people are able to get drugs from friends and family about the same percentage of time as from doctors by prescription. That is a little more than 25 percent. Those who admitted they bought from sellers on the street constituted 15 percent.
Dr. Leonard Paulozzi, a researcher with the CDC, said opioid use has held steady at around 12 million users, and that means one in twenty over the age of 12 are affected. Other studies from the CDC have shown that deaths from prescription opiates has grown quite sharply, with more than 16,000 deaths annually. In contrast, deaths from heroin and cocaine totaled only 8,000, and fatalities from anti-anxiety medicines were about 6,500.
Some reporting has shown that doctors are the problem, since the CDC study revealed that doctors were slightly more likely to be the culprits in their patients’ addiction. It is not known whether the difference between family and friends and physicians is a significant one. Of those study participants that said family gave them prescription drugs, it was 26.4 percent. For those reporting that doctors gave them prescriptions, it was 27.3 percent.
Doctor shopping is seen as a common way for a person to get more than his share of certain drugs. In those cases, a physician needs to be aware of the possibility of their patient abusing the substance for non-medical purposes.
For Oklahoma lawmakers like Ownby, their state has its share of pushers of prescription-type drugs, and the loss in lives means it is worth the cost of enforcing drug trafficking laws, including those targeting oxycodone, morphine, hydrocodone and benzodiazepine mixtures. The new law could be helpful in ridding the state of dealers who indirectly cause death and destruction.
Prescription pill poppers are to be checked in Oklahoma. It is the job of the State Senate to see that the law makes a difference.
By Lisa M Pickering