Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tampa forum looks at prescription drug safety

TAMPA — All across Florida, people fail to recognize the signs of widespread prescription drug abuse, doctors and drug experts said Tuesday at a forum to look at ways to solve the rising tide of overdose deaths and abuse.

Well-meaning doctors are fooled by addicts posing as patients. Parents are lulled into believing that their prescriptions are safe from their children and their friends. Even addicts themselves don't realize the strength and danger of the drugs they depend on.

"They're making doctors unwilling participants in the drug trade," said panelist Dr. Rafael Miguel, a professor of anesthesiology and neurosurgery at the University of South Florida, at the forum, which was sponsored by the St. Petersburg Times.

Florida has failed to monitor and track prescription drugs the way most other states have, making it easy for addicts and dealers to get multiple prescriptions from different doctors, Miguel said, winning applause from an audience of about 50 people.

"We don't have a pain-o-meter where you can put a finger in and say, she's having that amount of pain. … We can easily be fooled. (A patient) can be doing the same thing to 10 other physicians."

Doctors such as Miguel take elaborate measures, including random drug tests and counseling, to make sure their patients have real injuries and aren't abusing prescriptions. But audience members said some doctors and drug companies are part of the problem.

"Our kids are hit from a very young age" with drug company ads, said Cindy Harney, whose 20-year-old son Garrett died in 2006 after overdosing. "They think a pill will solve everything."

Harney, who traveled from Sarasota to attend the forum, told other audience members that powerful drugs are prescribed too readily. "How many patients need pain (medicine) that is meant for dying cancer patients?" she asked.

Prescription drugs are becoming more deadly. In 2006, prescription drug overdoses killed 1,720 people in Florida, up about 40 percent in three years. Prescription painkillers and anti-anxiety drugs now kill about 500 people in the Tampa Bay area each year. That's three times as many as the number killed by illegal drugs such as cocaine and heroin.

Panelist Bonnie Blake, a psychiatric nurse at Morton Plant Hospital whose stepson died of an overdose, said parents need to take precautions. Lock up your medicines, she said.

The Times sponsored the forum after publishing a series on the problem last month.

Tampa forum looks at prescription drug safety 03/18/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 19, 2008 8:17pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Lightning announce events for 25th anniversary season


    The Lightning revealed some of its plans for its 25th anniversary season, including a ceremony to honor the 2004 Stanley Cup team.

    The Lightning's 2017-18 road jersey
  2. Legalized medical marijuana signed into law by Rick Scott

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott on Friday signed into law a broader medical marijuana system for the state, following through on a promise he made earlier this month.

    Gov. Rick Scott signed legislation on Friday that legalizes medical marijuana in Florida.
  3. Lego T-rex and scores of other brick sculptures free to see in Tampa


    TAMPA — Envision the effort that went into building a basic Lego model with your kids. Now imagine arranging the same toys to look like the Mona Lisa or an 80,020-piece Tyrannosaurus rex.

    Eliana Goldberg, 5, of Wesley Chapel looks at a Lego sculpture called "Everlasting" at The Art of the Brick exhibit, which opened Friday in Tampa and runs through Sept. 4. [CHARLIE KAIJO   |   Times]
  4. Rick Scott signs medical marijuana, 37 other bills into law


    Gov. Rick Scott on Friday signed into law a broader medical marijuana system for the state, following through on a promise he made earlier this month.

    Gov. Rick Scott
  5. St. Pete qualifying ends. Seven for mayor. Eight for District 6 on primary ballot


    The smiles of the faces of the workers in the City Clerk’s office said it all. The qualifying period for city elections was almost over.

    City Clerk Chan Srinivasa (2nd left) and Senior Deputy City Clerk  Cathy Davis (1st left) celebrate the end of qualifying period with colleagues on Friday afternoon