Stillwater News Press

June 7, 2013

Lawmakers weighing in on prescription drug abuse bill

By NewsPress Staff
Stillwater NewsPress

STILLWATER, Okla. — Local officials and politicians are weighing in on a prescription drug abuse prevention measure that was signed into law late last month.

Gov. Mary Fallin signed House Bill 1783, which prohibits a written or oral prescription containing the painkiller hydrocodone from being refilled, into law May 24. Fallin also signed House Bill 1782, which allows emergency responders to administer medication to counteract a prescription drug overdose.

Rep. Cory Williams, D-Stillwater, said he is against HB 1782. He said the first version was poorly written and feels the language of the bill is too broad and not well defined. However, he said he is happy to see Fallin take a stand on the issue.

“It really needs to happen,” he said. “I am glad Gov. Fallin is taking the helm on it.”

Fallin had signed HB 1781 into law earlier in the legislative session. The law would allow the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services access to non-identifiable information about prescription drug use from the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs with the purpose of research on areas in which drugs are being overprescribed and abused for preventative measures.

Williams, who also practices law, said he has seen prescription drugs become a factor in the destruction of marriages, custody cases and criminal prosecutions. He said there isn’t a defining moment for an abuser in which they choose to use, as many slowly develop the habit from medication prescribed due to a surgery or because of pain management.

“I’ve known some good people who’ve had to check into rehab,” Williams said.

Payne County Sheriff’s Department Capt. Kevin Woodward said there are difficulties in proving abuse while prosecuting prescription drug abuse cases when the user has a legitimate prescription. Woodward said the sheriff’s department does not want those who are truly sick to go without medication, but are seeing pain and psychiatric medication being abused or sold on the street.

Those abusing their own prescriptions are harder to catch, he said.

“They are abusing the doctor’s system,” he said.

Woodward said many of the cases the county works result from prescription drugs being found during traffic stops and searches.

“We actively pursue them when they come to our attention,” Woodward said.

According to a press release from the governor’s office, a survey indicated that 8 percent of Oklahomans, more than twice the national average, are abusing prescription drugs.

“These reform measures will help combat the growing problem of prescription drug abuse in Oklahoma,” Fallin said. “More than 81 percent of drug-related deaths in Oklahoma are caused by prescription drugs. That figure is unacceptable, and these reforms will tackle this problem head on and help save lives in the process.”

Williams said doctors must play a role in the process.

“At the end of the day, the medical community has to exercise some prudence and judgment,” he said.

Fallin spoke on other preventative measures.

“As a state, we are committed to providing the resources to prevent drug abuse from occurring in the first place,” Fallin said.

“That’s why this year’s budget includes a significant increase in resources for prescription drug abuse prevention and treatment initiatives. These programs will help Oklahomans get healthier and improve the already great quality of life in our state.”