Health professionals and dishonest patients are diverting powerful and potentially addictive prescription drugs from legitimate medical channels, helping to fuel a shift toward pharmaceuticals as drugs of choice, reports the Los Angeles Times. Pharmacy thefts, robberies and burglaries also are contributing to the problem, investigators say, along with prescription forgeries and Internet pharmacies that require little information before shipping drugs. Nationwide, 25 million doses of commonly abused drugs were reported stolen last year.
In California, the drug diversion problem has caught the attention of state Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown, who plans to upgrade the state’s monitoring system to allow health practitioners to check patients’ histories before prescribing potentially dangerous medications. The federal government’s most recent survey reported that 7 million Americans engaged in nonmedical use of pharmaceuticals in 2006 — up from 6 million two years earlier. And that usage was higher than for any illicit drug except marijuana. Prescription drugs “are quickly becoming the drug of choice and abuse,” said one police official.