More than five years after New Jersey passed a law to start tracking prescription drug use, the state is launching a long-awaited database to help doctors more quickly spot abusers and help authorities stop drug dealers.

The database has been running since Sept. 1, but has only been collecting information on prescriptions. Starting this month, doctors and pharmacies can also access the information.

The push to get the program operating got a boost following a series of stories by The Star-Ledger of Newark last year that exposed widespread abuse of steroids and human growth hormone by police and firefighters.

Including New Jersey, 40 states have such a program.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)