Law Enforcement Officers’ Perceptions of Florida’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program

Published date01 November 2017
Date01 November 2017
Subject MatterArticles
/tmp/tmp-17iynHYWM5XADr/input 724291CCJXXX10.1177/1043986217724291Journal of Contemporary Criminal JusticePerez et al.
Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice
2017, Vol. 33(4) 368 –379
Law Enforcement Officers’
© The Author(s) 2017
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Perceptions of Florida’s
DOI: 10.1177/1043986217724291
Prescription Drug Monitoring
Nicholas M. Perez1, Wesley G. Jennings2,
Yanning Wang3, and Chris Delcher3
Prescription pain medication misuse and abuse is a considerable criminal justice and
public health problem in the United States. As a result, prescription drug monitoring
programs (PDMPs) have been developed and implemented across the country
to monitor patients with high abuse potential and to detect abnormalities in the
prescribing of controlled substances. The current study relies on a sample of 87
Florida law enforcement officers to gauge their perceptions of, use of, and perceived
effectiveness of Florida’s PDMP. Results indicate that most of the law enforcement
officers considered themselves moderate-to-frequent users of the PDMP and
considered the PDMP to be an effective system. In addition, many of the officers
reported that their communication had increased with prescribers and pharmacists
because of the PDMP. These findings notwithstanding, some officers noted a few
barriers/limitations of the PDMP such as “false negatives” and an inability to check
another state’s PDMP as areas for improvement. Study limitations and implications
are also discussed.
police, drug abuse, controlled substances, PDMP, E-FORCSE®
1California State University, Long Beach, CA, USA
2Texas State University, San Marcos, TX, USA
3University of Florida, Gainesville, FL, USA
Corresponding Author:
Wesley G. Jennings, School of Criminal Justice, Texas State University, 601 University Drive, Hines
Room 108, San Marcos, TX 78666, USA.

Perez et al.
Researchers have estimated that 11.2% of Americans are affected by chronic pain
(Nahin, 2015). Since the late 1990s, in efforts to treat this chronic pain, physicians have
prescribed various prescription opioids to patients in the United States (Reisman,
Shenoy, Atherly, & Flowers, 2009). These prescription opioid pain relievers can include
“oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, morphine, fentanyl, and others” (American Society
of Addiction Medicine, 2016). Although these medications can be successful in manag-
ing pain, there have also been increased incidences of abuse and dependence (Paulozzi,
Budnitz, & Xi, 2006). Approximately 2 million of the 20.5 million Americans over the
age of 12 with a substance use disorder are addicted to prescription pain medication
(Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, 2016). The U.S. Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention (CDC; 2016) has estimated that 20,100 people died in
the United States in 2015 with a prescription pain medication present at the time of
death. In fact, prescription drug abuse is the leading cause of accidental death in the
United States (Griggs, Weiner, & Feldman, 2015).
In addition to public health consequences, this prescription opioid epidemic is also
associated with several concerns related to the criminal justice system, including the
increased prevalence of illegitimate pain management clinics or “pill mills,” patients
engaging in “doctor shopping” (also known as multiple provider episodes or MPEs),
inappropriate prescribing practices, and prescription drug diversion to illicit markets
(Surratt et al., 2014). In fact, research has suggested that pill mills are the most com-
mon source for illicit street dealers to get prescription opioids (Rigg, Kurtz, & Surratt,
2012). The prevalence of this behavior varies widely depending on the study, ranging
from 6.3% to 56% (Sansone & Sanson, 2012), and many street dealers have reported
engaging in doctor shopping to get their pills (Rigg et al., 2012). These illegal behav-
iors have further exacerbated the availability and rampant abuse of prescription opi-
oids in the United States (Florida Office of the Attorney General, 2012). It has been
estimated that presumed doctor shoppers purchase approximately 2% of all opioid
prescriptions (McDonald & Carlson, 2013).
Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMPs)
In response to this nationwide epidemic of prescription opioid abuse and the associated
illicit activities, 49 states (all except for Missouri as of January 2017) and the District of
Columbia have legislated and enacted operational PDMPs to provide data and informa-
tion for health care practitioners, pharmacists, regulatory boards, and law enforcement
agencies to identify patients that may abuse prescription pain medication or diverting
them (PDMP Training and Technical Assistance Center, 2016). The main goal is to mon-
itor patients on drugs with high abuse potential (e.g., Drug Enforcement Agency [DEA]
scheduled opioid pain relievers) and “detect abnormalities in the prescribing of con-
trolled substances (e.g., higher-than-expected doses per unit time, questionable overlap-
ping prescriptions, “doctor shopping” for multiple prescribers and dispensers)” (Delcher,
Wagenaar, Goldberger, Cook, & Maldonado-Molina, 2015, p. 64).
Each state has their own PDMP designed to address prescription abuse and over-
dose with various supervising agencies, features, and requirements. These PDMP

Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice 33(4)
systems are sometimes housed in the state department of justice (e.g., California’s
Controlled Substance Utilization Review and Evaluation System) and other law
enforcement agencies (e.g., Hawaii’s Narcotics Enforcement Division, Oklahoma’s
Bureau of Narcotics, Georgia’s Drugs and Narcotics Agency, and New Jersey’s
Department of Law and Public Safety). As of now, all states with PDMPs (except for
Nebraska) authorize law enforcement officers to request PDMP data for investigative
purposes (PDMP Training and Technical Assistance Center, 2016). In some states,
these law enforcement officers are able to use this information to investigate unusual
prescribing behaviors and individuals suspected of involvement in doctor shopping
and/or diversion.
Although research on law enforcement officers’ perceptions of PDMPs is rather
scant in the literature, Wixson et al.’s (2014) study is one important exception (see also
Freeman et al., 2015). Specifically Wixson et al. (2014) offered a descriptive study of
306 Kentucky law enforcement officers’ perceptions of the Kentucky All Schedule
Prescription Electronic Reporting (KASPER) system (e.g., Kentucky’s PDMP). Their
results indicated that the law enforcement officers perceived the PDMP as being effec-
tive as 92% considered the PDMP successful in reducing drug abuse and diversion and

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