Tag: the DEA

The Largest Painkiller Bust in History Just Happened

No More Pill Mills?

The morning of May 20th started just like any other for unscrupulous doctors in Arkansas, Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi. They woke up on their piles of blood money, got into their insanely expensive cars, and drove to work at “clinics” and “offices.”

Once at work, they sat back on their alligator skin chairs, drank coffee from solid gold mugs, and dreamt up new ways to overprescribe opioids. Then the DEA came a-knocking.

dea painkiller arrests

Okay, that’s a bit melodramatic and over the top, but it’s closer to reality than many realize. Since the early 2000’s many doctors have been prescribing opioids and benzo’s for one reason and one reason only – to make money.

They’re handing out pills like candy and getting paid… while also ruining lives and causing a nationwide painkiller epidemic. Over time, thanks to stricter regulations and prescription monitoring services, the painkiller epidemic morphed to the heroin epidemic.

Well, the DEA has finally had enough. On May 20th, over 1,000 agents raided offices and pharmacies across Arkansas, Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi. This raid was the culmination of a fifteen month long campaign called “Operation Pilluted.”

Pilluted is the single biggest pharmaceutical operation the DEA has ever conducted and, so far, has resulted in close to 300 arrests.

It’s also had vigorous backing and support from the states involved. Alabama Governor Robert Bentley, a former dermatologist, had the following to say,

“When they [doctors] choose to overprescribe narcotics to patients, and they know that these patients may be or are abusing them, then they change from being a physician to really being a drug dealer” (NBC News).

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Details on Operation Pilluted

The largest prescription painkiller bust in DEA history was juts conducted…now what? Well, before looking to the future, let’s look at what exactly this operation entailed.

Operation Pilluted was the umbrella name of the DEA’s recent efforts to dismantle the supply and illegal distribution of opioids and benzodiazepines. For those who are unaware, opioids are drugs like oxycodone (OxyContin, Percocet, etc.), hydrocodone (Vicodin), hydromorphone (Dilaudid), morphine, and Fentanyl. Benzo’s are drugs like alprazolam (Xanax), diazepam (Valium), and lorazepam (Ativan).

The DEA was only interested in those supplying the pills. They chose to focus their efforts on doctors, pharmacists, and other medical professionals. They didn’t target those addicted to these drugs and, to the best of my knowledge, didn’t arrest any users for possession.

Overall, forty-eight people were arrested on May 20th alone. Twenty-two were from Louisiana, nine from Alabama, nine from Arkansas, and eight from Mississippi.

The crooked doctors and pharmacies that survived “P Day” without jail time weren’t left completely alone. Over thirty-five medical practitioners were forced to give up their DEA registration numbers, which means they can no longer prescribe controlled medication.

Despite the large number of arrestees coming from Louisiana, Arkansas has historically been the epicenter of painkiller abuse. In fact, since 2014, over half of all DEA prescription drug arrests have occurred in Arkansas.

Christopher Thyer, a Federal Prosecutor from Arkansas, stated that 146 million hydrocodone pills are distributed in his state each year. He went on to state that this is enough hydrocodone to give forty-two pills to each man, woman, and child in Arkansas (NBC News).

That’s simply unacceptable. What makes matters even worse is how some of these “doctors” operate. DEA agents confiscated four loaded guns and a money counter from one Arkansas doctor’s office. Among those arrested was one man who, according to agents, was tasked with recruiting homeless individuals to file unneeded prescriptions.

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The Future of Painkiller Abuse in America

It’s safe to say Operation Pilluted shook up the landscape of painkiller abuse. The DEA picked a smart tactic – focus on the supply and arrest only those involved in prescribing and distributing opioids and benzo’s.

Still, the question lingers, what now? Will this end the painkiller epidemic? What about the heroin epidemic? What about more and more young people overdosing? How can we stop all that?

Unfortunately, substance abuse in America isn’t going to be solved by operations, crackdowns, or arrests. Substance abuse in America isn’t going to go away until we address the demand portion of drug use. That is to say the problem isn’t going to get better until we increase access to drug treatment.

No one wants to grow up to be an addict. The sad fact is that many do. Men and women become addicted for a million and one reasons. One of these is doctors overprescribing painkillers. There are still a million other reasons though.

So, while I applaud the DEA for the scope of their operation, I say that we need more! We need more treatment centers, better access to treatment centers, and better clinical care.

Once those are in place, the supply will dwindle on its own. It’s that simple.

What’s Comprehensive Addiction Treatment & how can it help you or a loved one!

Will This Law End Painkiller Abuse Once & For All?

Is This the End of Painkiller Abuse?

hr 471 painkiller abuse laws

The House of Representatives recently passed the 2015 version of a bill entitled “The Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act.” It’s a major step forward in ending painkiller abuse once and for all.

HR 471, as it’s known in the House, is the latest version of a multiyear anti-painkiller legislative schedule. Various iterations of this bill have been floating around Congress since 2013. This year’s version, sponsored by both Republicans and Democrats, was passed into law on Tuesday, April 21st.

Marsha Blackburn, a Republican representative from Tennessee and a cosponsor of the bill, had the following to say about HR 471,

“…This legislation will foster a more collaborative environment between manufacturers, wholesalers, retail pharmacies and federal enforcement agencies…We must be aggressive about addressing this epidemic, while also ensuring that patients who need medications to alleviate pain and treat illnesses will have access to them through a safe and secure supply chain” (Representative Tom Marino’s Website).

While this law alone isn’t going to put the nail in the coffin of painkiller abuse, it’s a monumental step forward for lawmakers and citizens alike. Read on to learn what exactly The Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act is all about and what makes this year’s version different from former versions of the bill.

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The Newest Painkiller Abuse Law

Perhaps the first thing apparent about HR 471, and Congress’ other efforts to curb opioid abuse, is how bipartisan they are. Peter Welch, a Democrat from Vermont, and Tom Marino, a Republican from Pennsylvania, authored this particular bill. Congresswoman Blackburn (mentioned above), a Republican from Tennessee, and Judy Chu, a Democrat from California, then cosponsored it.

It’s clear from this bipartisan attitude just how serious the government is about fighting opioid abuse. It’s also clear that they’re pulling no punches. They’re rolling out the red carpet, so to speak, for further bills and motions in Congress.

Following along this line of thinking, a bill identical to HR 471 is making its way through the Senate. The bill, S 483, was introduced by both Democrats and Republicans. Much like the House of Representatives bill, it promises continued action on the part of federal agencies and local pharmacies.

And here we get into what HR 471 actually does. After all, I didn’t call the bill monumental for nothing! The Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act has a few major implications.

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First, it removes the ambiguity that exists between federal and state level drug delivery guidelines. Put into simpler terms, HR 471 gets rid of conflicting laws. Federal and state laws can, and often do, conflict each other. No longer is that the case. HR 471 implements one set of nationwide laws regarding drug delivery and compliance guidelines.

Second, the bill promotes collaboration between federal agencies (the DEA, the ONDCP, and others), local law enforcement (state and city police forces), and drug suppliers (pharmaceutical companies and pharmacies themselves). With all cogs in the machine on the same page, working together and sharing information, there’s much less chance for painkiller diversion and abuse.

Think about it like this – if a local police force sees a spike in Vicodin arrests, they can communicate this information to local pharmacies. These pharmacies will then be better prepared for forged prescriptions and other diversion methods. The police force can also inform the DEA, who can compare local Vicodin arrests against nationwide data. The results of this comparison can be shown to pharmaceutical companies to help them develop more effective “abuse-deterrent” forms of Vicodin.

About this unprecedented level of communication and collaboration, HR 471 author Tom Marino had the following to say,

…It requires federal agencies like HHS to actually consult with local pharmacies and other stakeholders on how best to prevent prescription drug abuse; especially from an operational standpoint. We have to remember it is pharmaceutical professionals on the ground that are closest to this issue and know how to appropriately address it (Congressman Marino’s Website).

A quarter of all opioid prescriptions are abused…learn more shocking painkiller addiction statistics today

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