Doctor's Prescription Pads May Be Part Of RI's Drug Overdose Problem

Oct 10, 2013

State health officials say they don’t know why Rhode Island has the nation’s 13th highest rate of accidental deaths caused by illicit drug overdoses.  They say doctors may be part of the problem.

Twenty-eight year old Ross Ricciarelli is a recovering heroin  addict. He got started on Vicodin and progressed to Percocette. When prescriptions became hard to come by he started shooting up.

"I was prescribed them at one point and I really had no idea that it was going to just take me down roads that I never would have imagined that I would have gone down," said Ricciarelli.

Ricciarelli was lucky. He quit before he died of an overdose. But every week in Rhode Island four people are not so lucky. They succumb to unintentional drug overdoses.  Rhode Island has the highest rate of drug overdose deaths in New England and the 13th highest in the United States, according to a report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.  State health director Dr. Michael Fine says part of the problem is that doctors are over-prescribing opiates.

Fine says doctors are being urged to ask patients about prior histories of addiction and to prescribe only the amount of opiates absolutely needed for pain management.

Do you have insight or expertise on this topic?  Please email us, we'd like to hear from you.