Houston law enforcement officials want more state regulation of popular pain medications and anti-anxiety drugs, warning that Southeast Texas has become a “mecca” for abusers, the Houston Chronicle reports. For nearly a year, Houston police have led a crackdown on pharmaceutical scams, targeting pain management clinics advertising “express” pain and anti-anxiety treatment and those who bring homeless people to clinics and pay them for prescriptions. This year, detectives have seized a substantially higher amount of hydrocodone, commonly marketed with acetaminophen as Vicodin or Lorcet, and the anti-anxiety drug Xanax.
Narcotics investigators have seized 215,946 grams of hydrocodone so far this year, up from 9,030 grams in all of 2005 and 58,504 in 2006. “I don’t think this is something that we can just turn our backs to and ignore and hope it will go away,” said Stan Furce, director of the Houston High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) and a former Drug Enforcement Administration agent. “Law enforcement has minimal resources to put toward it, and I don’t think we can enforce out of this. I think we need to legislate and regulate our way out of it.” Hydrocodone is the most frequently prescribed opiate in the U.S., with nearly 131 million prescriptions for hydrocodone-containing products in 2006. The federal Drug Enforcement Administration may make products that contain hydrocodone a level 2 drug.