TORONTO - Ontario plans to launch a new tracking system to curb the abuse of the highly addictive painkiller OxyContin and other prescription drugs, a growing problem that's sparked crackdowns in other provinces.

The system would monitor prescription narcotics and other controlled substances, from painkillers such as oxycodone, morphine and codeine, to stimulants and sedatives like Ritalin, Valium and phenobarbital.

Legislation will be introduced this fall to expand the province's current database to track all drugs dispensed under both public and private drug plans, Health Minister Deb Matthews said Friday.

Currently, the system only tracks drugs prescribed under a provincial program that funds medications for seniors, welfare recipients and the disabled.

An admittedly emotional minister said she hopes the move will end the "crisis" of prescription drug abuse that has turned soccer moms into sex workers to bankroll their addictions.

"One person could go to 40 different doctors, get 40 different prescriptions, go to 40 different pharmacies and end up with a lot of drugs," she said during a news conference in London, Ont.

"There's no way currently to tie that all together."

The expanded system would send out an alert if someone tried to get the drugs from several doctors or tried to fill prescriptions at several pharmacies, she said.

It will also allow the government to identify doctors and pharmacists who are prescribing or dispensing "enormous" amounts of drugs, which could lead to police stepping in.

"These are small numbers. These are outliers," she said. "But it is where the problem is."

The government also plans to talk to doctors, nurses and pharmacists about appropriate prescribing and dispensing practices, launch new initiatives to educate patients and youth about the dangers of prescription drug abuse and expand treatments for addicts.

A top health bureaucrat mused last year about creating guidelines for professionals who prescribe or dispense drugs, but the government said it will instead raise awareness about new national guidelines released last May.

Prescriptions for oxycodone-containing drugs have jumped 900 per cent in Ontario since 1991, officials said.

The government predicts it will spend $173 million on opioids in 2009-10 under its public drug plan -- $80 million on OxyContin alone.

The number of oxycodone-related deaths have nearly doubled since 2004 in Ontario, with twice the number of admissions to publicly funded treatment and addiction services for narcotics abuse, officials said.

The abuse of prescription narcotics is a worldwide problem, they added. Manitoba and Nova Scotia have a program in place to address the problem, while New Brunswick is working on one. They're similar to what Ontario wants to do, but with some differences on the ground, officials said.