State of Texas to crack down on prescription drug abuse

Amarillo, Texas---Prescription drug abuse is the fastest growing narcotic problem in the nation.

Now to help combat the issue across Texas and here in the Panhandle, the state legislature is about to step things up to stop the abuse.

Painkillers are ending up in the wrong hands and taking hundreds of lives every single year.

Teens as young as 13-years-old are getting hooked, but a new computer tracking system could soon be the key to stopping an illegal practice with deadly consequences.

Vicodin, Hydrocodone and Oxycotin are some of the most popularly abused medications.

These pills can sell for as much as $20 a piece on the streets and they're being obtained through a process known as "doctor shopping."

"Unfortunately this is something that we see on a daily basis," Angela Bazaldua with Martin Tipton Pharmacy told NewsChannel 10 back in November.

Doctor shopping is becoming more and more popular.

It's basically the practice of taking a prescription and filling it at one pharmacy, and then obtaining the same prescription and refilling the medication at another to obtain an enormous supply for personal consumption or resale.

Pharmacists' and police know about the problem, but there's little they can do.

"We do report all controlled substances to the DEA," Bazaldua said. "The problem with that is that everyone reports all controlled substances to the DEA and so they are overwhelmed and by the time there is a problem, it's been going on for a while."

Some states like Louisiana have a computer monitoring tracking system which keeps records of all prescriptions filled.

Texas right now is not one of them.

However, the state legislature is now looking into it.

"They're looking at implementing an electronic data base that would be available online to all pharmacies, physicians and I believe law enforcement," Jenie Jeramillo with Amarillo Poison Control said.

This way, no matter where the person goes to fill a prescription, pharmacists' will be able to keep a watchful eye for any suspicious activity.

"The current system in Texas is pretty archaic," Jeramillo said. "It's just faxed over reports so it's not very helpful in identifying cases of abuse and we are behind in terms of monitoring issues like this."

Texas is already gearing up to approve the possible installation of this system in 2013.

Deaths linked to overdosing have tripled in the last decade and just last year, the legislature made "doctor shopping" a felony offense.