Doctors in the state of Maine have begun to ask patients to submit to random drug tests in exchange for prescriptions for controlled drugs. The tests help doctors determine if patients are taking their prescription drugs or selling them on the black market. Drug tests also allow doctors to determine if patients are taking other drugs. Patients who refuse drug tests could be refused prescriptions.
The Maine Board of Licensure in Medicine recommends that physicians enter into contract agreements that include random drug tests with patients who receive multiple new prescriptions or renewals for controlled drugs. According to Gordon Smith, vice president of the Maine Medical Association, a prescription drug contract between doctor and patient and random drug testing for patients will encourage more conversations about the potential for addiction.
Maine – Surprisingly Vulnerable to Opiate Addiction
Random drug testing is the latest weapon being used to fight Maine’s high rate of prescription drug abuse. The per-capita rate of addiction to opiate drugs in Maine is the highest in the nation. More residents of the state seek treatment for painkiller abuse than for alcoholism. Additional effects of Maine’s prescription drug problem include an increase in the number of pharmacy robberies and in the number of babies being treated for opiate withdrawal. Prescription drugs are also being blamed for a rise in crime across the state, especially burglaries. Public Safety Commissioner John Morris blames many of the burglaries on prescription drug addicts who break into homes in search of drugs. The targets of home robberies are often infirm or elderly people.
Like many other states, Maine has instituted a Prescription Monitoring Program. The program consists of an electronic database for tracking prescriptions for controlled substances. Pharmacists upload the names of patients who receive controlled drugs so doctors can check on patient activity before writing prescriptions. The state has also set up a task force to address the problem of prescription drug abuse.
Many drug experts in Maine believe that the high rate of prescription drug abuse in the state has been fueled by a greater availability of diverted drugs compared to other states. Maine was the first state where OxyContin was marketed by Purdue Pharma. Between 2006 and 2010, the number of prescriptions for oxycodone written by Maine doctors rose by 50 percent. The state’s Prescription Monitoring Program seems to be having an effect since doctors wrote about 300,000 fewer prescriptions for narcotic drugs in 2011.