Shamane Mills, Wisconsin Public Radio

The state has released a progress report on a database that helps track potential abusers of prescription painkillers.

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Some law enforcement haven't used it because they're so busy cracking down on illegal drugs.

Six months ago, doctors and pharmacists started entering patient data into the states prescription drug monitoring program to see who was getting opioids and how often. So far, 30 percent of pharmacists and 8 percent of doctors are linked to database. Law enforcement also has access to the database.

But Lt. Gary Schneck from the Marathon County Sheriff's Department says they haven't had time to use it: “We've been so overloaded with methamphetamine and heroin trafficking cases that we haven't used it,” says Schneck. “I've been a big proponent of the system, but at this point we haven't used it up to now.”

Schneck says law enforcement in Stevens Point, Appleton and Eau Claire are struggling to keep up with the heroin and meth epidemic.

The drug prescription monitoring program is overseen by the Department of Safety and Professional Services. The agency says there have been 325,000 database inquiries to check for potential abuse of opioids. Sarah Sorum with the Pharmacy Society of Wisconsin says even though most dispensers don't have access to the program, those that do are making use of it.

“We've been impressed by the uptake amongst pharmacists,” says Schneck. “People are really excited about this being a clinical tool.”

The abuse of legal pain killers is linked to illegal drugs. Law enforcement say addiction often starts with prescription medication and ends with heroin.