We applaud the efforts of law enforcement and the medical community related to the latest "drug of choice." And we hope that additional avenues for preventing its abuse can be discovered.
The new drug on the scene is OxyContin, a prescription drug used by individuals suffering with severe pain. Numerous deaths have been associated with illegal use of the drug, but that doesn't seem to stop its abuse.
According to Clarksburg Police Chief John Walker, easy access to the drug makes enforcement difficult. But dealing with OxyContin's recent arrival in North Central West Virginia has been one of the city's "main priorities," he said.
And so it should be. The state of West Virginia is currently tracking deaths related to the drug, and they represent no minor statistic. Dr. Henry Taylor, public health commissioner, said there were 20 oxycodone deaths in 2000.
Abuse of the drug can also have a negative effect on physicians and patients who can legitimately benefit from it. Physicians who have been fooled by someone faking pain in order to obtain the drug may be leery about prescribing it to someone who really needs it.
In response, the state's four medical boards issued joint pain-management guidelines this spring that include information on screening patients for misuse and addiction. The state Legislature also voted this year to require continuing pain-management education for certain medical staff.
The work under way to prevent the abuse of OxyContin is to be commended. But we hope that further steps can be taken, perhaps through education, before the death toll rises any higher.