State Attorney General Jeff Chiesa says prescription drug abuse is growing at an alarming rate as a threat to public health and safety. In 2010, New Jersey saw 7,238 admissions to State-licensed or certified substance abuse treatment programs as a result of prescription painkiller abuse. 

That number represents a striking 230 percent increase from 2005, according to statewide statistics collected by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

The New Jersey State Commission of Investigation in June 2011 reported that a growing number of young people are abusing prescription drugs, and noted a significant trend in which young people who became addicted to painkillers eventually turned to heroin as a cheaper substitute.

Today, Chiesa unveiled the New Jersey Prescription Monitoring Program (NJPMP) as a new tool in the State’s fight against the abuse and diversion of prescription drugs, and the often-heavy reimbursement costs of fraudulently-obtained prescription medication borne by health insurance companies, the State, and ultimately taxpayers.  The database has been collecting information since Sept. 1; to date, more than 4 million prescriptions have been entered. Starting this month, doctors and pharmacies, including mail-order operations, can access detailed patient information on prescriptions for painkillers, steroids, sedatives and stimulants.

“The New Jersey Prescription Monitoring Program is one of several new tools in our statewide effort to halt the abuse and diversion of prescription drugs and promote fiscal integrity in the healthcare sector,” says Chiesa. “The database will help the Division of Consumer Affairs and other law enforcement agencies identify and investigate individuals and businesses suspected of fraudulently diverting controlled drugs for abuse. By highlighting the location, nature, and extent of abuse throughout the state, the information collected will also better inform our healthcare initiatives and addiction-treatment efforts.”

Between November 3 and December 7, 2011, a single patient obtained a four-month supply of oxycodone and methadone by presenting prescriptions, now believed to be forged, to three New Jersey pharmacies on a total of 14 occasions. The patient circumvented the safeguards that pharmacies and insurance carriers use to spot such abuse by spreading out his visits between the pharmacies, and by paying with cash in some instances and by insurance in others.

As a result, in one month the individual obtained a total of 2,520 doses of highly addictive, narcotic medications classified as Controlled Dangerous Substances.

Chiesa says the apparently abusive pattern of purchasing drugs was revealed this month – and the discovery was made thanks to the New Jersey Prescription Monitoring Program (NJPMP).