Prescription drug abuse is Colorado's fastest-growing drug problem.

(Photo: Courtesy of CDC)

A statewide database meant to stem prescription drug abuse isn't as effective as it could be, says Dr. Jason Hoppe. Hoppe is an emergency room physician at the University of Colorado Hospital in Aurora, Colo. He says pharmacies are supposed to upload the presciptions they fill, but that doesn't always happen. And he says, only a small percentage of doctors are checking the database to see if a patient is being over-prescribed drugs like Oxycodone and Percocet.

Colorado has one of the worst prescription drug abuse problems in the country and it often shows up in emergency rooms, Hoppe says. 

Dr. Hoppe says he’s come to expect that on every shift, at least one patient will ask him for painkillers; he suspects many of these patients have drug abuse problems.  The prescription monitoring database is intended to help doctors like Hoppe check their patients' prescription histories. Many such patients "doctor-hop" in an effort to get potent narcotics. But because doctors' use of the database is so low, Hoppe says the prescription monitoring system isn't solving the problem.

As part of the Colorado Consortium to Reduce Prescription Drug Abuse, Hoppe is trying to improve that database.  The consortium is a collaboration between state agencies, universities and hospitals.  Hoppe spoke with host Ryan Warner.