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WCBS 880 Special Series: Bad Medicine - Part 7 - Doctors Battle Overprescription

WCBS 880 reporter Irene Cornell is doing an extended series on drug abuse, called Bad Medicine: When Painkillers Kill. The series will run through May 23. Be sure to check for her pieces if you miss them on-air.

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - It often takes the overdose death of a celebrity like Whitney Houston or Michael Jackson to grab the headlines.

But there have been 100,000 fatal overdoses in this country in the past 10 years because to narcotic painkillers, WCBS 880's Irene Cornell reported.

So, Dr. Andrew Kolodny formed Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing (PROP) to educate doctors who overprescribe.

WCBS 880's Irene Cornell On The Story


"They're not all pill mills. Some of them are pill mill operators and some of them are drug dealers," Kolodny told Cornell. "But I think there are many who are probably telling themselves that they're really helping people, but I think deep down inside they're aware that many of the patients they're prescribing these medications to are being harmed rather than helped."

Dr. Kolodny is head of the psychiatry department at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn and he pointed out that most of the patients now being prescribed Oxycodone are young adults.

"And you have to wonder why 20-30-year-olds would be requiring massive doses of a medication that's more appropriately prescribed to people at the end of life, with cancer pain," he said.

The Centers for Disease Control has declared it a public health crisis.

"Once people become addicted, they've got a problem for the rest of their life and it's a problem that may kill them," he said.

But it's not just the 20 and 30-somethings getting hooked.

"You'll often hear about a teenager who has his or her wisdom teeth removed and instead of getting a few tablets, they are given 30 or 60 tablets of a narcotic pain killer, which then winds up back in the dorm room and shared with friends or sold or traded," Kolodny said.

And those teenagers don't know that they're playing with fire with a drug like Oxycontin.

Why are doctors overprescribing? Dr. Kolodny said he's found it's all about convenience.

"There are many patients who have what we would call aberrant drug taking behavior, meaning they're coming in early and they're saying that they lost the prescription or it fell down the toilet or they're aggressively demanding more medication," he said.

He said primary care physicians often don't have the time to argue with an irate patient.

"To simply write the prescription, that's the ticket to get the patient out of the office, and it's the easiest thing to do," said Kolodny.

LINK: Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing

What do you have to say about the problem? Sound off in the comments section below.

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