Tag Archives: DEA

MIT Study Shows Treatment More Cost Effective than Drug War Expense

cocaine userSouth America has long been in the cross hairs of the DEA and other government officials in regards to the illicit drug trade. The continent has been the biggest supplier of cocaine to the United States for decades. In an effort to curb the massive amount of cocaine funneling into the country, the Federal government mounted a significant and expensive attack on coca plant farmers and the drug cartels. Unfortunately, a new look at these measures show that the expectations of this attack do not match the outcome.

Daniel Mejia and Pascual Restrepo, economists at MIT and Colombia’s Universidad de los Andes, respectively, released an analysis that shows that very little positive results were attained from the United States’ $4.3 billion dollar effort from 2000 to 2008.

Plan Colombia was presented to taxpayers as a radical and aggressive way to significantly reduce the amount of cocaine coming into the United States. In order to cut the production of cocaine in Columbia, the United States invested over $4 billion dollars into aerial spraying of crops, interruption of cocaine smuggling and intelligence. However, these efforts have not paid off. In fact, according to the economists, in order to eliminate one kilogram of cocaine, the United States spent $940,000.

If they just wanted to get the drug off the streets, they could literally buy up the cocaine coming in and dispose of it – at a cost of only $30,000 per kilogram.

Mejia and Restrepo included an example of a much more cost effective approach to reducing the cocaine problem in this country. They cited a different analysis that shows that the cost of eliminating one kilogram of cocaine by investing in drug treatment centers would cost the country between $12,500 and $68,705 per year.

“If the U.S. wants to reduce drug consumption, it is better off investing in treatment and prevention programs domestically than subsidizing source country interventions, [such] as Plan Columbia,” explained Jonathon Caulkins, a drug policy expert at Carnegie Mellon University. Caulkins joins many other Americans who have begun to call for more treatment funding rather than punishment for addicts. As more and more people suffer from drug and alcohol addictions, it is becoming vital that the United States invests in reliable and effective treatment options.

Should All Physicians be Required to Receive Opioid Prescribing Training?

fdapanelWith tens of thousands of deaths attributed to prescription painkillers just in the past few years, it is little wonder why policy makers and healthcare professionals are seeking every avenue possible to help save more lives now in the face of this epidemic.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently held a meeting regarding the risk evaluation of extended-release and long-acting opioids. One of the topics of discussion was whether or not all physicians should be required to have specific training on narcotic pain medication to help prevent over-prescribing scenarios. The FDA panel concluded that they should receive such training in order to receive their prescriber number from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

Although the American Medical Association (AMA) has developed their own task force regarding preventing opioid abuse, they are generally opposed to the mandatory training, stating that some doctors don’t prescribe painkillers at all and therefore shouldn’t be subjected to it. However, the advisory committee for the FDA saw things differently.

There is an acknowledgment that over-prescribing of painkillers has been one component to the opioid crisis we face, but previous efforts to provide continuing education to physicians fell short of expectations. Therefore, the advisory committee approved the measure unanimously, and also made additional recommendations, such as mandatory education for patients receiving prescription narcotics.

In order to implement the mandates, legislative action will now have to be taken to follow through with the recommendations of the FDA panel. Hopefully the action can be quickly addressed within the House and the Senate. It is possible that the move may take the form of an amendment to the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA).

DEA Reminds Us Not to Forget About Meth

methamphetamineHeroin and prescription drugs are certainly the hot topics when it comes to drug abuse in recent years, but recent comments from representatives of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) carry a warning that methamphetamine use is on the rise again in many areas. In fact, not only is it coming over the Southwest border still, but it is reaching the outer limits of the country in rapid fashion.

Methamphetamine is a man-made drug that gives the user an intense high and feeling of euphoria. The drug is comprised of chemicals that can be found in various household items like lye, battery acid, fertilizer, rubbing alcohol, brake cleaner and other hazardous chemicals. When ingested, users initially feel a rush of euphoria, followed by an intense burst of energy that usually ends in hallucinations and paranoia. The drug is so addictive that users will go to great lengths to obtain the drug and remain high.

Methamphetamine is not new to the country of course, but the production process has changed throughout the years. In the past, it was most common for small groups to manufacture the drug and distribute it throughout their area. Sometimes addicts would make their own supply, using easy to find ingredients. In more recent years, however, the production has shifted to superlabs south of the border. Drug cartels in Mexico are now supplying methamphetamine in huge quantities right along with the heroin that has become so pervasive.

In fact, many heroin users report that meth is their next drug of choice. “Methamphetamine is a dark horse riding side by side with heroin,” said DEA Acting Special Agent in Charge Doug James.

So, while drug prevention efforts need to remain on heroin and prescription drugs, it is important that methamphetamine stay on the forefront as well. The insidious way that methamphetamine has of consuming a person is amplified if prevention efforts don’t remain focused there as well.

More Pill Mills Targeted in Raids

Pill mills are the term given to facilities that operate usually as pain clinics that also have pharmacies connected to them. People travel from all around to these clinics to get drugs, and the doctors and administration are well aware that they’re not only profiting from addiction, but fueling it. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and regulators in many states throughout the country have been cracking down on these pill mills.

The southern part of the country seems to have the worst problem with pill mills and the DEA was looking to put a stop to this type of activity with a major operation. All throughout the southern states groups of DEA agents recently raided clinics that were suspected of illegally providing prescriptions for addicts and those seeking narcotic painkillers. Releasing a report to the public; the DEA found that 20 percent of all prescription painkiller addicts received their drugs from a medical professional. The level of narcotic distribution was staggering, and agents compared them to illicit drug dealers on the streets.

Aside from seeking out pill mills and other forms of prescription drug fraud and trafficking, people addicted to painkillers also get them from friends and family members, or simply buy them off the street. Many also wind up turning to heroin as their addiction escalates and they’re looking for a stronger but cheaper opiate.

Unfortunately, providing drugs to addicts is a lucrative business, whether they are legal or illegal. That lure of profit can extend beyond drug cartels and street corner dealers and corrupt otherwise well-meaning citizens like doctors and pharmacists. It is an example of how the demand side of the drug problem must be focused on much more that the supply side, because as long as there are people seeking to abuse drugs, there will be people looking to sell them.

Thousands of People Dispose of Prescription Drugs in Arizona

dearxtbFor the second time this year, police departments across Arizona participated in National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day. The event allowed people to safely dispose of their medications, rather than hold on to the drugs that may potentially go to feed someone’s addiction.

In just one city, Paradise Valley, over 450 pounds of prescriptions were collected in one day. This amount was 2 ½ times the first amount of pills that was collected by the Paradise Valley Police Department when they performed their first take-back event back in April. Some prescriptions that were disposed of were dangerously expired – by as much as 40 years.

Throughout the country more and more police departments, pharmacies, and healthcare facilities are making themselves available to take back unused prescriptions so as to lessen the potential of other addicts getting a hold of dangerous substances. Research shows that most people who are addicted to narcotic painkillers obtain their drugs from a friend or a relative who has a valid prescription for the drugs.

Paradise Valley and other Phoenix-area towns have seen an increase in prescription drug abuse, mainly among teenagers. Police have reported several incidents of teenagers abusing prescription painkillers at parties. Upon questioning it was apparent that most of these drugs were being obtained from family members’ medicine cabinets.

As the prescription painkiller epidemic sweeps across our country, it is vital that more police departments and other healthcare providers follow in the footsteps of the Paradise Valley Police Department. Holding take-back events more than once a year allows for more people to hear about the opportunity to dispose of unwanted/unused medication. In 2010 the DEA made a concentrated effort to get more states to hold take-back events, so far more than 4.1 million pounds of prescription painkillers have been safely disposed of throughout the country.

In addition to publicized events, the Paradise Valley Police Department is making their drop-off container available anytime someone needs to dispose of unwanted/unused prescriptions. Once the police have the drugs they will safely dispose of them. Thankfully, there are more of these year-round collection sites popping up throughout Arizona and across the country.