Tuesday, January 16, 2007
Carmel on the Case: Dr. Feelgood
Dr. Feelgood -- you've probably heard the term before. It's used to describe doctors who give prescriptions for addictive medications to people who "want" them instead of really need them, sometimes with deadly results. Investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero is On the Case.
WSVN -- Drugs that are being prescribed by the hundreds are ruining lives by the thousands. In fact, it is so bad that experts call it an epidemic.
Maureen Barrett: "My son was an addict, and he found a goldmine by finding a doctor that would prescribe him many, many pills for no medical reason."
Her son, Drew, was just 22 years old when he died of an overdose of prescription pills like Xanax and Oxycontin. These are candies, but each represents one of the 1,455 pills Maureen found in Drew's room.
Maureen Barrett: "He only saw the doctor two times."
This woman is afriad her son may be the next to die.
Mother of addicted son: "It's heartbreaking. I don't sleep at night. I run to his bed a few times at night to make sure he's breathing."
She asked us to protect her identity, in order to protect her son.
Take a look at what she found in his room -- bottle after bottle of prescription pills, all highly addictive and many being dispensed hundreds at a time.
She traced the prescriptions to a Broward pain clinic, although her son is healthy.
Mother of addicted son: "When I went to the clinic, I just walked in, and I looked around me in the waiting room. All you have to do is look around you, and you see those people sitting there like vegetables!"
She says the clinic told her that her son is an adult and would not discuss his case.
A just-released Department of Justice report calls pharmaceutical drug dealing, including drug trafficking at clinics, a major concern.
Sheriff Ken Jenne: "We've got to find a way to aggressively end this problem in this community."
Broward Sheriff Ken Jenne says doctors and clinics that hand out prescriptions like candy are taking a terrible toll on the entire state.
Sheriff Ken Jenne: "It's destroying this community. It's destroying families. Poor, wealthy, black and white -- it's a drug epidemic."
At the Village Drug Treatment Center, admissions director Sara Magnes has seen firsthand how people from every walk of life have lost everything they hold dear due to prescription drug abuse.
Sarah Magnes: "The pain killers are probably one of the most difficult substances to get off of."
So, what to do? For years experts have tried to get Florida to require a drug registry. It would keep track of who is writing, who is filling and who is using prescriptions for controlled substances. The legislature has said, 'No,' but that may change.
Sheriff Ken Jenne: "Those people who are the main people to oppose it are no longer there."
He believes a bill may pass this year.
Critics maintain the state has no business knowing who is taking which drugs, even if they are controlled substances. The also say any registry would violate a patient's right to privacy. But supporters disagree.
Sheriff Ken Jenne: "People do not need this secrecy to die."
While the debate goes on, countless other families fight to save addicted loved ones and mourn for those they couldn't save.
Maureen Barrett: "You'll never be the same again. You're not supposed to bury your children."
IF THERE'S SOMETHING YOU THINK CARMEL SHOULD INVESTIGATE, GIVE HER A CALL: