Dentist held for painkillers
Abuse of Vicodin is suspected in the year's first practitioner arrest
State narcotics agents arrested a 42-year-old Honolulu dentist yesterday morning at his Kapiolani Boulevard office on suspicion of fraudulently obtaining prescription drugs.
The arrest "culminated a four-month investigation of pharmaceutical diversion," said Keith Kamita, chief of the state Narcotics Enforcement Division.
The suspect "more than likely was self-abusing" the prescription drug hydrocodone, known by the trade name Vicodin. However, the investigation is ongoing, Kamita said.
Hydrocodone is the No. 1 abused prescription drug, Kamita said. Hydrocodone, used as a cough suppressant and to treat moderate to moderately severe pain, is listed by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration as a Schedule III controlled substance. Other examples of Schedule III drugs are codeine and anabolic steroids.
The dentist, who has not yet been charged, was arrested at 7:30 a.m. at his Kapiolani Boulevard office on suspicion of eight counts of fraudulently obtaining a controlled substance.
Agents, armed with a search warrant, searched his dental office for records relating to the alleged crimes, Kamita said. The records are being analyzed.
The dentist was released about 10 a.m. pending further investigation.
The suspect's license was not affected, and he is still legally allowed to practice dentistry, Kamita said.
The Narcotics Enforcement Division has investigated 76 cases of forging or altering prescriptions last year.
It has also investigated 14 cases in which patients had been allegedly seeing multiple doctors to obtain prescriptions illegally, five cases involving nurses and 12 cases involving practitioners (including physicians and dentists) who were improperly prescribing or diverting pharmaceuticals.
"Across the nation, this is becoming a big problem," Kamita said, noting that pharmaceutical drug abuse is the No. 3 substance abuse problem in the country.
Yesterday's arrest is the first Hawaii arrest of a practitioner for the year, Kamita said.
While forging a prescription is uncommon, it is not uncommon to obtain prescriptions by fraud or deceit, such as writing in a fictitious name or sometimes depriving a patient in a hospital, Kamita explained.
He said about half of the cases involve self-abusing drugs, while the other half involves some type of inappropriate prescribing.