Maine Doctors to Drug Test Rx Patients
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To combat the growing epidemic of prescription drug addiction in Maine, doctors are now asking patients to sign a controlled substances agreement. The statement includes a stipulation that doctors may randomly drug test their patients at any time in order to ensure they are taking their pills (rather than selling them), and are not taking a higher-than-prescribed dosage; patients who don't sign will likely be denied the prescriptions. "These are good doctors, but they're trained to believe their patients," says Gordon Smith, executive vice president of the Maine Medical Association. He says doctors often overlook red flags: "It's just because they've got 30 patients in front of them a day and they're just trying to do the best they can and some of them have unfortunately not paid as much attention to the risks." Right now, it will be up to each hospital and medical practice to create their own agreement, decide who must sign it and determine what happens if a patient refuses. "Everybody is under pressure to have policies that do everything they can to tighten up the prescribing of opiates," says Smith. Maine doctors wrote two million prescriptions for controlled substances in 2011 and the state has the highest per-capita rate of opiate addiction in the nation. In 2009, 262 newborns were born with opiate withdrawal symptoms, up from 13 in 2000. In addition, the state has already endured its 50th pharmacy robbery this year, compared to just half that in 2011.