BUFFALO, NY (USA TODAY) -- Michael Israel's death of a self-inflicted gunshotwound in 2011 was a tragedy. The Buffalo 20-year-old had becomedespondent about his addiction to the powerful painkillers prescribedfor his Crohn's disease.
"But the ultimate Greek tragedy iswe allow this to happen every day," his father, Avi Israel, said thisweek at the State University College at Buffalo, where he was part ofthe announcement of a western New York-wide public awareness campaignabout the dangers of prescription drug abuse.
"We want to stop the dying of our youth," he said.
Thecampaign, which grew out of a push by Avi Israel after his son's death,involves billboards; television, print and online advertising; awebsite; and a 30-minute documentary produced by Buffalo publicbroadcaster WNED-TV that will air Oct. 22 on Buffalo-area TV stations.
AviIsrael has been a frequent and vocal advocate since 2011 for tacklingthe growing problem of prescription drug abuse, including testimony in2012 before the U.S. Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control.His advocacy helped lead to New York lawmakers unanimously passing theInternet System for Tracking Over-Prescribing law, or "I-STOP," whichwent into effect in August.
The Centers for Disease Control andPrevention in 2012 called prescription drug abuse the fastest-growingdrug problem in the United States. Between 1999 and 2009, the number ofdeaths nationwide from opioid painkillers such as hydrocodone andoxycodone nearly quadrupled, and such overdoses cause more deaths thancocaine and heroin combined, according to the Substance Abuse and MentalHealth Services Administration.
A growing number of states are trying to crack down on the problem:
•Alabama Republican Gov. Robert Bentley in August signed into law a trioof bills giving more medical personnel, as well as the Alabama MedicaidAgency, access to the state's prescription monitoring program database;tightening the regulations on pain management clinics; and making"doctor shopping" to get multiple prescriptions a Class A misdemeanorpunishable by up to a year in jail.
• Indiana earlier this yeargave the state attorney general new oversight powers on pain managementclinics and is moving toward mandatory annual drug screenings of peopleprescribed opioids to ensure they're taking the drugs as prescribed.
•Kentucky in 2012 began requiring the licensing of pain clinics, givinglaw enforcement officials greater access to the state's prescriptiondrug monitoring database and mandating that doctors examine patients andcheck electronic prescription records before writing prescriptions foropioids.
• Washington state in 2012 started setting dosage limitsfor doctors and others who prescribe pain medicines. Any prescriptionover a certain amount requires a second opinion from a pain specialist.
Regulatoryattempts at clamping down on abuse of something that starts as a legalproduct are particularly challenging, said New York Attorney GeneralEric Schneiderman.
New York's I-STOP includes a requirement thatdoctors and pharmacists check the state's real-time drug monitoringprogram database before prescribing opioids.
"I think the next bigstep is to get it done at the national level so people can't be movingfrom state to state and getting prescriptions that way," Schneidermansaid.