Kentucky Tries Rewriting the Scripts on Prescription Drug Abuse, Meth

Friday, May 11th, 2012

When lawmakers gathered this winter and spring, they crafted the hallmark legislation of the regular and special sessions, dealing with curbing prescription drug abuse and manufacture of methamphetamine.

Policymakers and former addicts had banned together in recent months to fight prescription drug abuse, spurred by the often recited Centers for Disease Control statistics that more Kentuckians die each year from prescription drug abuse than car crashes.

The tragic headlines of children abandoned, harmed, or even killed by reckless exposure to the fatal toxins of meth-making parents too tweaked up from the drug habit to care for their young, to the rising numbers of grandparents parenting again to fill the gap left by their abusing children, to the pop-up pain clinics and pill mills disproportionate to the real pain-killing medical needs of patients all sounded a clarion call to organized, political, life-saving action by law.

The regular session produced a highly negotiated measure to limit the amount of pseudoephedrine-based cold and allergy over-the-counter medicines that could purchased without a prescription. PSE, the chemical shorthand for pseudoephedrine, is the key ingredient used to make meth. Many anti-drug advocates wanted a prescription-only measure, but the political tolerance for such was weak. The deal brokered in the end lowered the amount of cold medicines such as Sudafed or Claritin D a consumer can get from 9 grams to 7.2 grams per month. Gel caps of the ingredient are excluded as it is believed PSE is harder to extract in that form.

Kentucky lawmakers also wrote a remedy for the prescription drug abuse epidemic and pill mills by requiring all pain management clinics to be physician-owned and for prescribers of Schedule II and III narcotics like Oxycodone and OxyContin to use the electronic, prescription drug monitoring system called KASPER to track patient use of painkillers, who prescribes them and how often. The legislation grandfathered in existing pain clinics that are not doc-owned, but they would have to abide by the new rules to stay in business.

One of the most compelling testimonies in Kentucky was brought to bear during legislative public hearings by Clay County business owner Melanda Adams. At age eleven she started experimenting with alcohol and marijuana. Her addiction grew more robust with the addition of prescription medicine abuse. Eventually, she wound up in early her twenties a hard meth addict, busted repeatedly for her habit, passing through the turnstile of several rehabs. Now, in her thirties, Melanda Adams is walking testimony of recovery and wholeness. She tells her story, alongside valiant drug educator and advocate Karen Kelly, president and CEO of Operation Unite in eastern Kentucky.

Adams and Kelly join me this weekend on Connections with Renee Shaw to talk about Kentucky’s drug problem and how they’re waging the battle against it.

Watch a glimpse of the program here.

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