The growing death toll from prescription drug overdoses reflects the increased use of powerful painkillers and psychotherapeutic drugs, many of which are addictive and toxic when misused.
Since The Times' Scott Glover and Lisa Girion began highlighting the problem late last year, state lawmakers have responded by trying to plug the information gaps that enable patients and doctors to abuse the system. Those efforts are slowly yielding results, although not to the extent that's needed.
Prescription drug abuse has grown steadily over the last decade, to the point where overdoses send more than 1 million Americans to emergency rooms annually. Although there's no simple way to guard against people abusing many of these drugs, considering the legitimate role they can play in treatment, it would help for doctors and regulators to have better data about the drugs that are being prescribed and dispensed, to whom and by whom.
Until now, lawmakers' focus has been on improving a state Justice Department database that collects records from pharmacists and doctors of all the dangerous prescription drugs they dispense, along with a monitoring program that lets doctors check what drugs their patients have already obtained before prescribing new ones. Both efforts have been so cash-starved, however, they're barely functional.