PAINKILLER LAW: Why the Cops Won’t Stop – Lessons from a Local Pharmacy

A local pharmacy has a sign its window that reads, “We Do Not Stock Oxycontin.” That sign says a lot about the current crisis of prescription drug abuse facing the United States. The crisis isn’t a reason to unfairly target legitimate doctors and pharmacists who prescribe and dispense opioids – but it’s the reason law enforcement will not let up.

I asked the pharmacist why they don’t stock Oxy, the strongest, most potent and powerfully addictive Schedule II opioid painkiller. He said it’s because too many young people were coming in asking for it. How about that? The Baby Boomers who’ve patronized the store for 40 years don’t want Oxycontin; their grandchildren do. Is that because all of America’s 20 years olds are hopelessly afflicted with unbearable pain? Some may be; some may have been and have become dependent on a powerfully addictive drug. Others no doubt use recreationally. We have indeed created a monster.

The pharmacist did tell me that for, say, cancer patients, or adults who are using responsibly prescribed and responsibly ingested Schedule II painkillers, the store will special-order. He is not trying to deny legitimate patients of needed medication – nor should the FDA, or the DEA, or prosecutors, or Medical Boards, or advocacy groups. This neighborhood pharmacist, like the patients he serves and the drug-seekers he declines to, witnesses the daily ravages of a complicated and deadly public health crisis, and he is doing the best he can to bring sense to his little corner of healthcare.

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