Prescription of controlled substances has been thrust into the national spotlight in recent years. Despite a national crackdown, new data shows doctors have prescribed larger numbers of potent controlled substances to Medicare patients than ever before. Tennessee came in second in the nation (just under Florida) in number of providers who wrote a minimum of 3,000 prescriptions for Schedule 2 controlled substances.

The Drug Enforcement Administration classifies certain drugs based on their potential for abuse and sets limits of prescribing for each group. Drugs classified as Schedule 2 require written prescriptions and cannot be refilled. Prescribing large amounts of Schedule 2 drugs can indicate a doctor is running a “pill mill” for profit while creating potential for abuse and dependence.

Over-prescription of Schedule 2 drugs can lead to abuse and dependence, and the prescriber is liable for these damages. According to the Mayo Clinic, the most commonly abused prescription drugs are opioids (painkillers), anti-anxiety medications and sedatives, and stimulants (for ADHD and some sleep disorders). Some signs of prescription drug abuse can include:

  • Stealing, forging or selling prescriptions
  • Taking higher doses than prescribed
  • Excessive mood swings or hostility
  • Increase or decrease in sleep
  • Poor decision making
  • Appearing to be high, unusually energetic or revved up, or sedated
  • Continually “losing” prescriptions, so more prescriptions must be written
  • Seeking prescriptions from more than one doctor

Twelve of Medicare’s top 20 Schedule 2 drug prescribers in 2012 have faced disciplinary actions or criminal charges related to their practices. In the past year, Medicare has started using data to identify potential over-prescribers. Beginning in mid-2015, Medicare will be authorized to kick doctors who prescribe in abusive ways out of the program.

Tennessee, along with New York and Kentucky, has put rules in place that have reduced the prescribing of narcotics. These rules require doctors to check databases that track in-state controlled substance prescription before prescribing such drugs and at certain intervals afterward. These concerted efforts are aimed at reducing the risk of abuse or dependence. If you believe that you or a loved one has been the victim of over-prescription, please contact us for a consultation.