McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

State news

September 22, 2012

Experts: Prescription drug problems plaguing Okla.

McALESTER — OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Oklahoma should invest in drug prevention programs, increase training for officers and require better compliance with prescription drug reporting systems to get a handle on the state’s growing problem of prescription drug abuse, experts told a legislative panel on Thursday.

The state ranks the highest in the nation for nonmedical use of painkillers, and is among the top states for drug overdose death rates and amount of prescription painkillers sold per 10,000 people, said Darrell Weaver, director of the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs.

“It’s really no respecter of persons,” Weaver told members of the House Public Health Committee, which was conducting an interim study on how to address the state’s prescription drug abuse problem. “And it’s going to do more if we don’t take some action against it.”

The number of drug-related deaths in Oklahoma climbed from 344 in 2001 to 808 in 2010, the most recent year for which complete data was available, according to the bureau’s statistics. About 80 percent of those deaths are from prescription drugs, Weaver said.

Rep. Richard Morrissette, who requested the study, said he has unsuccessfully introduced bills to reclassify hydrocodone as a more restricted drug and make it mandatory for physicians to reference the state’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program before writing prescriptions for certain drugs.

“In the time since both measures failed, physicians have continued to prescribe these medications at record setting levels,” said Morrissette, D-Oklahoma City. “My immediate concern now is for those patients addicted to the medications, their access to motor vehicles and the potential for disaster on our roadways.”

Morrissette also said Oklahoma should consider joining 17 other states that have adopted “per se” laws that make it illegal to have any prohibited substance or drug in the body while driving.

“Forewarned is forearmed, and to do nothing less leaves everyone on our roadways exposed to significant risks from a population under the influence,” he said.

Oklahoma also could use more officers on the street who are trained drug recognition experts, said Jim Maisano, a Norman police officer who conducts a training seminar once a year with funding from the National Highway Safety Office.

Oklahoma has about 190 trained drug recognition experts from about 57 law enforcement agencies, Maisano said. A $30,000 grant typically covers training for between 20 and 30 officers.

Officers trained in how to detect different kinds of drug use can prepare reports to accompany blood tests and lead to the successful prosecution of drivers under the influence of drugs.

“We have cases where a guy would blow 0.0 on the breath test, but you could look at him and know he’s obviously on something,” Maisano said. “We help document the impairment to show the person couldn’t drive the vehicle safely.”


Sean Murphy can be reached at

Text Only | Photo Reprints
State news
Seasonal Content
AP Video
Raw: Orthodox Christians Observe Easter Rite Ceremony Marks 19th Anniversary of OKC Bombing Raw: Four French Journalists Freed From Syria Raw: Massive 7.2 Earthquake Rocks Mexico Captain of Sunken SKorean Ferry Arrested Raw: Fire Destroys 3 N.J. Beachfront Homes Raw: Pope Presides Over Good Friday Mass Raw: Space X Launches to Space Station Superheroes Descend on Capitol Mall Man Charged in Kansas City Highway Shootings Obama Awards Navy Football Trophy Anti-semitic Leaflets Posted in Eastern Ukraine Raw: Magnitude-7.2 Earthquake Shakes Mexico City Ceremony at MIT Remembers One of Boston's Finest Raw: Students Hurt in Colo. School Bus Crash Raw: Church Tries for Record With Chalk Jesus Raw: Faithful Celebrate Good Friday Worldwide Deadly Avalanche Sweeps Slopes of Mount Everest Police Arrest Suspect in Highway Shootings Drought Concerns May Hurt Lake Tourism
NDN Video
Jabari Parker's Top 5 Plays From Duke Career Kourtney Kardashian Is a Bikini Babe More Manpower Than Ever Expected At 4/20 Rally Debunk'd: Miley Cyrus AIDS, Cheeseburgers Cause Cancer, Military Warning Bill Previewing the NBA playoffs Raw: Orthodox Christians Observe Easter Rite My name is Cocaine Raw: Space X Launches to Space Station Lohan Gets Candid About Her Sex List The 2014 New York Auto Show Meet Johnny Manziel's New Girlfriend Chelsea Clinton Announces Pregnancy Funny: Celebrating Easter with Martha Stewart and Friends Man Accuses 'X-Men' Director Bryan Singer of Sexually Abusing Him As a Teenager Man hit with $525 federal fine after he doesn't pay for soda refill Lea Michele & Naya Rivera Feuding? Jabari Parker declares for the NBA draft Singing Nun Belts Out Cyndi Lauper New West, Texas Explosion Video Swim Daily, Throwback Thursday

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.