Doctors Tell Congress: It’s Not Our Fault
Physicians demand better training, more DEA oversight, and generally plead innocent before Congress.
More than 125 physicians descended on Capitol Hill this week to demand legislative assistance in the battle against prescription drug addiction. Better training will lead to fewer inappropriate prescriptions, the doctors testified. Health care workers, often unfairly tagged as the main culprits in the estimated 15,000 yearly deaths from prescription drug overdose, say they need help stemming the tide, and backed bills that would require specialized training for anyone who dispenses prescription medications. One of the bills would also require more stringent registration with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) before prescribing addictive opioid-based painkillers. Critics of the bills in question say that doctors are making it tougher to treat genuine pain patients, and harder for treatment programs to employ opioids in heroin maintenance programs. PBS asked Dr. David Kloth, a pain management physician and spokesman for the American Society of Interventional Pain Physicians, for further details. "Doctors contribute innocently because they haven't been trained properly on how to prescribe in a responsible way, how to identify a drug addict and help them," said Dr. Kloth. (See our post on “Why Doctors Don’t Treat Addiction.”) 80 to 90 percent of physicians in the United States have no training or education in the use of controlled substances, Dr. Kloth said. He told PBS that doctors do play a role in the problem, however: “One, through some of these pill mills, egregiously. But in most states where they have a prescription drug-monitoring program, doctors don't use it. And if you don't use it you won't know that your patient is getting the same drugs from five different places.”