Drug czar speaks in Las Vegas about prescription drug abuse
LAS VEGAS (AP) - White House drug czar John Walters said Thursday that creating an electronic database that doctors and pharmacies can access would help ensure people are not abusing prescription drugs.
Walters, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, said prescription drug abuse could be curtailed without hurting the people who need the medication.
"You reduce demand. You treat those who are dependent and you reduce supply," Wallets told a crowd of several dozen people during a news conference at WestCare Women and Children's Campus, a Las Vegas treatment facility.
Walters was in Nevada to tout the Bush administration's new strategy of cracking down and reducing prescription drug abuse through a variety of initiatives.
Those include closing illegitimate online pharmacies, working with the Food and Drug Administration to create better medication labels for doctors and patients and furthering education on drug abuse.
Walters said prescription drug abuse has spiked in Nevada and across the country.
"The problem here, as in other cities, has grown dramatically," he said.
The Nevada Board of Pharmacy said in 2002 there were more prescriptions for controlled substances in the state than residents. And narcotic pain killers were mentioned in 153 deaths in Las Vegas in 2001, up from 63 in 1997.
Keith W. Macdonald, the pharmacy board's executive secretary, said educating people and helping those with addictions will ease the problem. He said throwing people behind bars is not a solution.
"It would double the prison population," he said. "We don't think that is good public policy."
Walters also said he didn't support legalizing marijuana in Nevada.
The Committee to Regulate and Control Marijuana, formed in Nevada this year by the national Marijuana Policy Project, wants to make Nevada the first state in the nation to legalize possession of marijuana.
In 2002, a similar initiative was rejected by the voters.
"I don't believe the people in this state will be fooled a second time," Walters said. "They weren't fooled the first time."
Walters also said that "we expect professional sports to clean their act up" in the wake of a steroid scandal that has hit professional sports, including baseball.
"We love sports for young people because it teaches them to be healthy," he said. "Steroids teach them to cheat and hurt themselves."