Could the Feds potentially use your prescription drug history to curtail your Second Amendment rights? In the wake of President Obama’s list of 23 executive orders — saying “If there’s even one thing that we can do to reduce this violence…” — the potential exists for the Department of Justice to use federal drug databases to screen for “mental illnesses.”
While the idea may sound far-fetched, state and federal agencies already cooperate to share information about your history of prescription drug use, including the use of medications for “psychiatric disorders.” Your doctor, your pharmacist, and your local emergency room already know a lot more than you think they know about your prescription drug history if you take a drug on the federal controlled substances list.
It began in 2005 when President George W. Bush signed the National All Schedules Prescription Electronic Reporting Act (NASPER) into law to combat illegal prescription drug abuse, including doc-shopping and so-called “pill mills.” State authorities began compiling databases of individuals who use certain drugs most often abused. Those databases are now being linked on the federal level.
The Bureau of Justice Assistance, a division of the Department of Justice, now sponsors a website to assist states in linking cross-referenced prescription information to catch suspected drug abusers who cross state lines. According to the Alliance of States with Prescription Monitoring Programs, the sheer volume of data they collect is stunning. In the data section for my home state of Ohio, the site claims it compiled 21 million prescription records on 11.4 million citizens in 2008.
In 2011 the White House issued a report called “Epidemic: Responding to America’s Prescription to America’s Prescription Drug Abuse Crisis” which outlined the goals of the Obama administration in battling this problem:
PDMPs [Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs] can and should serve a multitude of functions, including: assisting in patient care, providing early warning of drug abuse epidemics (especially when combined with other data), evaluating interventions, and investigating drug diversion and insurance fraud. [emphasis added]
They set a goal to:
Expand upon DOJ’s pilot efforts to build PDMP interoperability across state lines, including leveraging state electronic health information exchange activities. Work to expand interstate data sharing among PDMPs through the Prescription Drug Information Exchange (PMIX).
In response, the Behavioral Health Coordinating Committee of the Department of Health and Human Services issued its own report, called “An Action Plan for Improving Access to Prescription Drug Monitoring Program Through Health Information.“
The ambition is to provide clinicians and pharmacists with real-time information about patient’s prescription drug histories from the PDMPs, which can reduce the risk of opioid-related drug abuse and deaths. The Action Plan encourages collaboration across federal, state and local governments, State HIT [Health Information Technology] Coordinators, State PDMP Administrators, providers, pharmacists, health care professionals’ associations, and vendors to pilot ways to improve access to PDMP data through the use of HIT.
Of course, this meshes nicely with the Affordable Care Act’s goals of standardizing electronic medical records.
What does any of this have to do with the gun-grabbing Feds? On Tuesday the New York State Assembly passed a controversial law restricting gun ownership, part of which included a mental illness section. The law “…will require mental health professionals, in the exercise of reasonable professional judgment, to report if an individual they are treating is likely to engage in conduct that will cause serious harm to him- or herself or others.”
While the N.Y. bill gives a great deal of latitude to mental health professionals, at least it limits the provision to “mental health professionals.”
President Obama’s executive order wish list includes several “mental health” points that could potentially work their way into the administrative policies of the unelected bureaucratic agencies that presently exercise unprecedented control over the lives of Americans:
1. Issue a Presidential Memorandum to require federal agencies to make relevant data available to the federal background check system.
2. Address unnecessary legal barriers, particularly relating to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, that may prevent states from making information available to the background check system.
3. Improve incentives for states to share information with the background check system.
4. Direct the Attorney General to review categories of individuals prohibited from having a gun to make sure dangerous people are not slipping through the cracks.
16. Clarify that the Affordable Care Act does not prohibit doctors asking their patients about guns in their homes.
17. Release a letter to health care providers clarifying that no federal law prohibits them from reporting threats of violence to law enforcement authorities.
Is it completely absurd to envision an overreaching Department of Justice — via the Bureau of Justice Assistance — putting “at risk” Americans on a “no buy list” for guns, similar to the TSA’s “no fly list”?
Shortly after the president’s announcement at the White House, Wolf Blitzer told Rep. Steve Toth (R-TX) on CNN, “Right now you can be on a ‘no fly list.’ You’re not allowed to board a plane and you can go to a gun show to buy a gun. Is there a contradiction?”
Hypothetically, would you be on the “no buy list”?
Perhaps you would be asked, “Do you now, or have you ever taken Xanax or Ativan for anxiety?” (of course, there’s no need to ask, the authorities already know).
If the answer is, “Yes,” you might make the “no buy list” because the side effects for those drugs can include thoughts of suicide, agitation, rage, and hostility. Or maybe you’re OK, but your teenager takes Adderall for attention deficit disorder. Perhaps the DOJ would justify confiscating your guns because the side effects of Adderall can be pretty serious: extreme nervousness, paranoid delusions, mood swings that include hostility and severe aggression. If you’re taking Ambien for your sleep problems you should probably just go to your nearest gun turn-in event, hand your guns over to authorities, and take the gift card right now before Eric Holder shows up at your door. The gun-grabbers will have grave concerns about sleepwalking semi-automatic gun owners staging midnight raids on their refrigerators.
And technology is making it increasingly easier to track your prescription drug use. The NY Daily News reported this week that the city will be equipping “bait bottles” with GPS technology to track stolen OxyContin. Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said, “We’re also asking industry researchers to explore the possibility of applying nanotechnology in such a way that individual ‘bait’ tablets could be tracked by GPS.”
Perhaps this all sounds like the stuff of the conspiracy theory crowd. But we live in an era when our president issues executive orders usurping his constitutional authority with immunity. I heard an interview the other day with a hero of the conservative movement (and a hero of mine), Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), in which he said he also believes the president is usurping his constitutional authority with some of these executive orders. What I didn’t hear him say is that he and his colleagues plan to do anything about it. Congress is one of our last stands for preserving the separation of powers — and our liberty, for that matter — and there is no apparent political will for that battle.
Anything seems possible in Obama’s brave, new second term. We cannot allow Obama to rush unimpeded into this flurry of executive orders that could potentially enable the government to grab guns from law-abiding citizens in an unlawful manner without due process. We must ask important questions about patient privacy and rights, the definition of mental illness, and also, who will have access to these expansive drug databases.
“How else do you explain two otherwise decent kids, very smart, no history of violence to other kids in the school….why them? Why did this happen? It’s an extremely legitimate question to pose and it demands an investigation.” — Michael Moore on the role of prescription drugs in the Columbine shootings.
Previously from Paula Bolyard at PJ Lifestyle: