LegitScript’s primary focus is on Internet pharmacies. However, today, the Houston Chronicle published an op-ed by LegitScript President John Horton talking about a related problem: the growth of the “celebrity-overdose club” from prescription drug abuse. Using Anna Nicole Smith and Michael Jackson as examples, the op-ed says that prescription drug abuse figures are alarming.
Let’s put the figures in perspective. Remember the crack cocaine crisis of the 1980s? At its height in 1988, there were just over half a million crack users. What about the methamphetamine “epidemic” of a few years ago? Actually, in 2004, there were just under 600,000 meth users. And prescription drugs? Brace yourself. In 2006 and 2007 (the last years for which complete estimates are available) an estimated 7 million Americans were abusing these regulated pharmaceuticals. That’s nearly double the 3.8 million estimated for 2000.
The op-ed goes on to discuss the problem of “celebrity enablers” such as Howard K. Stern and Dr. Conrad Murray, who are alleged to have either directly furnished, or enabled the furnishing of, prescription drugs that were supplied without a legitimate medical need:
If this is America’s new drug problem, who are the drug dealers? Certainly, over-prescribing “rogue” Internet pharmacies and doctor-shopping all share some part in the blame. But the celebrity cases highlight a disturbing trend: the “hanger-on” who clamors to fill a need in the star’s life, and in return, gets to bask in the glow of the limelight. In the case of prescription drugs, the hanger-on could be a doctor or an intermediary with access to physicians. Either way, these enablers help facilitate the person’s prescription drug abuse, then addiction, and even overdose, just as surely as a street-corner drug-pusher.
The op-ed states that most doctors are responsible, and distinguish between a legitimate medical need for prescription drugs and requests for drugs to feed an addiction, but notes that a few unscrupulous doctors are simply “drug dealers in white coats.” The op-ed concludes:
If unwarranted requests for prescription drugs continue to be met with an easy supply chain — among celebrities and the general public — we should prepare ourselves for a frightening growth in membership to the overdose club.