When prescribing or dispensing what are known as Schedule II drugs - such as methadone, OxyContin, cocaine and morphine - physicians and pharmacists have to follow stricter regulations than for drugs classified as less addictive.
For the more addictive drugs, pharmacists need to have a hard copy of the prescription and the doctor's signature. Also, the prescription can't be refilled and records have to be kept on them.
The Kansas Board of Healing Arts and the Kansas State Board of Pharmacy do inspections to make sure the regulations are being followed. If they are not, disciplinary action can be taken.
Larry Buening, executive director of the Kansas Board of Healing Arts, said that physicians are walking a fine line between not wanting to underprescribe or overprescribe pain medicine.
"They are there to try to alleviate a person's illness and pain, and on the other hand, they also don't want to be accused by anybody of overprescribing something," he said.
A Kansas Senate bill has been proposed that would better track the use of addictive prescription drugs. The bill calls for a task force to create a database for controlled substance prescriptions.
The database mimics what 30 other states have developed, said Debra Billingsley, who is the executive secretary for the pharmacy board.
The intent, Billingsley said, is for physicians and pharmacists to check the database to make sure their patients haven't gone to other doctors or pharmacies to get the drugs.
However, nothing on state or federal books regulates the circumstances in which pain medicine should be prescribed. And, physicians are not required to do evaluations to make sure their patients aren't prone to addiction.
A few years ago, the state boards of healing arts, nursing and pharmacy adopted a joint policy statement that gave guidelines on treating pain.
Under the policy, patients who are at high risk of abusing the pain medicine would have to sign a written agreement outlining their responsibilities, including submitting to drug screenings, limiting refills and using only one health care provider and pharmacy.