The president's 24-year-old niece, Noelle Bush, faces a prescription fraud charge after allegedly trying to buy the anti-anxiety drug Xanax without a doctor's prescription.
Noelle Bush, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush's only daughter, was released from jail Tuesday, one day after after she was arrested at a Tallahassee pharmacy drive-through window while trying to pick up Xanax without a doctor's prescription.
Gov. Bush issued a statement after his daughter's arrest that read, in part: "This is a very serious problem. Unfortunately, substance abuse is an issue confronting many families across our nation."
Dr. Mitchell Rosenthal, founder of the Phoenix House drug treatment program, says the governor's statement rings true.
"There is a huge number of people in America, 4 million people, who are using prescription drugs, painkillers, stimulants and sedatives," Rosenthal said on ABCNEWS' Good Morning America. "This is four times as many people who are using heroin. It is a very serious problem."
Dr. Noel Scidmore?
The Tallahassee pharmacist, Carlos Zimmerman, told police he had received two messages on the store's voicemail from someone identifying herself as "Dr. Noel Scidmore." The caller left a detailed prescription for Xanax for Noelle Bush.
Zimmerman called the doctor's answering service to confirm the prescription, and a colleague of Dr. Scidmore responded to Zimmerman's call.
"Dr. Wickstrom called me back indicating that Dr. Scidmore is moving and isn't really practicing now, and said it was a fake and to bust her," Zimmerman said in a statement to police.
Prescription Drug Fraud a Common Problem
Candy Tsourounis, assistant clinical professor at the University of California at San Francisco's School of Pharmacy, said the issue of prescription drug fraud is nothing new. "Often a doctor's prescription pad is stolen and the person in need has someone write out the prescription as if it were real," she said. "Other people attempt to phone in a prescription to a pharmacy, impersonating a nurse or physician. Unless the person doing the impersonating is really clever, most people would suspect something," she said.
Xanax, the brand name of the drug Alprazolam — which is in a class of drugs called benzodiazepines — was approved by the Federal Drug Administration for treating anxiety in 1981. According to Llyod Wells, vice president of the child and psychiatry department of the Mayo Clinic, it is a "highly addicting drug" if used regularly.
Though some people can become addicted in a short period of time — a couple of weeks — most people would have to be taking it over a long period of time," he said. "But I do think doctors are explaining the risk of Xanax addiction with their patients."
According to doctors at the FDA, the risk of dependence and its severity is greater in patients treated with high doses — more than 4 milligrams a day — for more than eight to 12 weeks.
Wells said people should talk to their physician if they feel they are becoming dependent on the drug. There are many other treatments available to people who suffer from anxiety, he said.
In his statement, Gov. Bush said: "Columba [Bush's wife] and I are deeply saddened over an incident that occurred last night involving our daughter Noelle."
Noelle Bush told police she did not call the pharmacy pretending to be a doctor, and that the prescription had been obtained lawfully about a week earlier. Police said she admitted that the contact number left on the voicemail was that of her second home phone line. She will be arraigned Thursday on the prescription fraud charge.
Noelle Bush, who has two brothers, graduated from Tallahassee Community College and attended Florida State University during the 2000-2001 academic year. The university's registrar told The Associated Press she is not registered there this year.
The Bush family had said previously, after Jeb Bush's unsuccessful 1994 campaign for Florida's governorship, that one of their children struggled with a drug problem. They did not say whether it was Noelle or one of her brothers.
ABCNEWS.com's Maryann Bennett contributed to this report.