WCBS 880 reporter Irene Cornell has done an extended series on drug abuse, called Bad Medicine: When Painkillers Kill. The series is now complete. If you missed any of the reports, click here.

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Terry O’Leary, the new head of the New York State Health Department’s Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement, has his work cut out for him.

He’s retooling an agency to deal with the overprescribing of prescription painkillers, WCBS 880’s Irene Cornell reported.

He said law enforcement agencies seem to be getting on the same page when it comes to tackling the problem.

WCBS 880’s Irene Cornell On The Story

But on Staten Island, which has the highest addiction and overdose rate in the city, District Attorney Dan Donovan said he fears that this is bigger than anything that New York State and its legislators can handle alone.

“Just on Staten Island alone, I have three bridges that cross into New Jersey, and I commend the people in our state who are struggling to get something passed here that will help us enforce our laws and regulate this a little bit better,” Donovan told Cornell. “But I’ll have people from Staten Island just crossing over one of my three bridges to New Jersey to buy their prescription drugs.”

Donovan said only a national database to track the sale of narcotic painkillers can solve this problem.

“Over 70 percent of the abused drugs come out of our own medicine cabinets, and it’s not as a result of doctor shopping or theft from pharmacies. But it’s a direct result of overprescribing,” O’Leary told Cornell. “We believe that it’s not docs doing the wrong thing. It’s just not appreciating how dangerous these substances can be.”

Maria Basmas, whose 29-year-old son died recently of a prescription drug overdose, heard just such an excuse from the doctor who had sold her son 180 Oxycontin pills and a 120 Xanax. The doctor he didn’t know what he was doing.

“He has killed my son and he had no remorse, no sorry, no feeling,” Basmas told Cornell. “I would like to see some justice done.”

“There will always be bad actors in any field, medical or otherwise. One of our goals is to use the data we collect to try and track those doctors earlier and so that we can stop the illegal sale of prescriptions a lot earlier than what has happened in the past,” said O’Leary.

What do you have to say about the problem of prescription drug abuse? How can the epidemic be ended? Sound off in the comments section below.


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