You take one pill to get up, to focus, to get the job done. But then you need something to relax you, to calm you down, so you take another pill. … It’s a slippery slope to addiction. ~ Stephen Haydon
The New Face of Addiction is an article, by Diablo Magazine a northern California publication.
The article talks about a suburban mom who shared how her teenage daughter who got hooked on prescription pain medications.
This young teen was a “happy, social girl in elementary and middle school until she went to high school, and things began to change. The pressure to get top grades, to be popular, to be on the fast track for admission to a top college was overwhelming.”
The teens’ mother, thinking she was helping, took her daughter to a doctor who prescribed Klonopin for her daughter’s anxiety.
One pill led to another. Grades began to slip and a new group of friends entered the picture. The parents knew something was wrong, but just didn’t understand what.
The young teen who would do anything for the next high. She stole pills from friends’ parents’ medicine cabinets and from anyone who had a prescription. When those sources dried up, she turned to dealers for more pills. Her life was in jeopardy as she continued down the slippery slope of prescription drug abuse. Luckily, the young teen at the end of the article was now working to rebuild her life.
This is not the only story. Unfortunately too many young high school and college students are trying pills to fit in, get ahead, stay focused or curb their anxiety. Some, after suffering the chaos and confusion of substance abuse get help for their problem. Others are not so lucky.
California has declared March as Prescription Drug Abuse Awareness Month.
“This measure would proclaim the month of March, each year, as Prescription Drug Abuse Awareness Month and encourage all citizens to participate in prevention programs and activities and to pledge to ‘Spread the Word … One Pill Can Kill.'”
Here are some facts about Prescription Drug Abuse that are listed on the California’s Legislative Counsel’s Digest:
- In 2008, drug overdoses in the United States caused 36,450 deaths and 20,044 of these were from prescription drug overdoses;
- Overdose deaths involving opioid pain relievers (OPR) have increased and now exceed deaths involving heroin and cocaine combined;
- In 2009, 1.2 million emergency department visits were related to misuse or abuse of pharmaceuticals (an increase of 98.4 percent since 2004);
- Nonmedical use of OPR costs insurance companies up to $72.5 billion annually in health care costs;
- By 2010, enough prescription painkillers were sold to medicate every American adult with a typical dose of five milligrams of hydrocodone every four hours for one month;
- In 2010, 2 million people reported using prescription painkillers nonmedically for the first time within the last year—nearly 5,500 a day;
- As many as 70 percent of people who abuse prescription drugs get them from a relative or friend instead of a doctor;
A couple of years ago I attended an informational hearing through the California State Senate Public Safety Committee on preventing prescription drug abuse of opioid painkillers. I posted this information at the time, but it is worth repeating.
Danny Santiago, Special Agent Supervisor, California Department of Justice, Bureau of Narcotic Enforcement presented some eye-opening statistics and information.
Addiction Steals One’s Morals and Ethics:
- 5-7% of the populations is actively addicted
- 20-30% of active addicts primarily abuse prescription drugs
- Approximately 15% of non-triplicate narcotic prescriptions are fraudulent.
- Addiction recognizes no social-economic boundaries.
Really, How Big is the Problem?
- At any given time, 7% of adults are impaired.
- 60% choose alcohol — Approximately 45% choose Rx Meds — Less than 30% choose street drugs
- Deaths from prescription painkillers have reached epidemic levels in the past decade. The number of overdose deaths is now great than those of deaths from heroin and cocaine combined.
- In 2010, about 12 million Americans (age 12 or older) reported non-medical use of prescription painkillers in the past year.
- Enough prescription painkillers were prescribed in 2010 to medicate every American adult around-the-clock for a month.
- Improving the way prescription painkillers are prescribed can reduce the number of people who misuse, abuse or overdose from these powerful drugs, while making sure patients have access to safe, effective treatment.(CDC Vitals Signs November 2011).
- The quantity of prescription painkillers sold to pharmacies, hospitals, and doctor’s offices was 4 times larger in 2010 than in 1999.
- The unprecedented rise in overdose deaths in the US parallels this 400% increase since 1999 in the sale of these strong painkillers.
- Prescription painkillers sales per person were more than 4 times higher in Florida, which has the highest rate, than in Illinois, which has the lowest. The State of Florida recently established a Prescription Monitoring Program that is not publicly funded.
- Nearly three out of four prescription drug overdoses are caused by prescription painkillers – also called opioid pain relievers.
- Most prescription painkillers are prescribed by primary care and internal medicine doctors and dentists, not specialists. Roughly 20% of prescribers prescribe 80% of all prescription painkillers. (*CDC Policy Impact: Prescription Painkiller Overdoses)
- Prescription opioid painkillers are now the 2nd most abused drug in the United States, second to marijuana.
- Emergency Room visits for the overdose of illicit drugs has remained the same since 2004.
- Emergency Room visits for the overdose of opioid painkillers has doubled since 2004 and surpassed visits for the overdose of illicit drugs.
Here is how organized crime encourages prescription drug abuse. They find “dirty” doctors willing to write prescriptions for opioid painkillers and a “dirty” pharmacy or pharmacists wiling to fill the prescriptions.
They find and pay “patients” to obtain those prescriptions, patients who have insurance of Medi-Cal or Medi-Care. The patients take prescriptions to pre-arranged pharmacies. Pills are then given to the Drug Trafficking Organization (DTO) and are sold on the street.
If DTO pays retail for the prescription they make a 800% profit. If DTO obtains prescription through insurance they make an even higher profit by obtaining reimbursement through the “dirty” pharmacy.
Example of Money Making Enterprise
- Suspect pays doctor $1000 for 10 prescriptions for 120 pills each of the opioid painkiller OxyContin (80 mg).
- Suspect takes prescriptions to 10 different pharmacies and pays retail for pills.
- OxyContin retails for $4.71 per pill. Suspect receives 1200 pills from the 10 Rx’s.
- Suspect sells the pills for $20.00 per pill to a broker, making $15.29 per pill.
- $15.29 x 1200 = $18,348.00 – $1,000 to doctor = $17,348 profit
- The broker (suspect #2) sells the pills to a dealer in the Midwest for $40.00.
- $20.00 x 1200 = $24,000 profit for suspect #2
- Dealer (suspect #3) in Midwest sells the pills for $80.00 each on the street.
- $40.00 x 1200 = $48,000 profit for suspect #3
- $89,348 in profit for only 1200 OxyContin pills
Opioid Pain Killer Transition to Heroin:
This is how prescription drugs lead to heroin. A young adult gets addicted to an opiate pain-killer. They cannot afford the pain killers any longer. They cannot afford the doctor visits.
They cannot find a doctor to prescribe opioid pain killers at the rate they are taking them. They cannot find family/friends/acquaintances that have opioid pain killers in their medicine cabinet. They realize that heroin is an opiate with the same effects as opioid pain-killer. It’s easier to get and cheaper to buy.
A young adult has now become addicted to heroin.
The health impact includes Hepatitis, HIV, AIDS, overdose and death. A rise in heroin overdoses will be seen in the next two years.
Impact on Community
Overall there is a lower quality of life. With the current rate of this epidemic, every family will be affected by prescription drug addiction. There will be higher insurance premiums and more people under the influence.
What Can Be Done Statewide and/or Nationwide?
- Maintain staffing and budget for CURES (The state’s database known as the Controlled Substance Utilization Review and Evaluation System, which contains over 100 million entries of controlled substance drugs that were dispensed in California. Other states have similar programs.)
- Create additional Prescription Drug Task Forces
- Routine monitoring of insurance claims
- Provider (doctor) education in the recognition of prescription drug abuse
- Immediate sanctions and discipline for professionals
Here are seven things you can do:
- Educate yourself about the dangers of prescription drug abuse.
- Keep your medications in a safe place where others will not have access to them. Keep track of the number of pills you have been prescribed.
- Ask your doctor for the fewest pills required when prescribed medication. You can always get a refill.
- Doctors, many well-meaning, are offering prescription pain medication for symptoms that can be handled by an over the counter medication. Use an over the counter medication for pain whenever possible.
- Rather than having a written prescription, ask your doctor to call it in to the pharmacy.
- Carefully dispose of your leftover medications. Do NOT leave them in your medicine cabinet. There are annual and semi-annual take back days in many cities. You can also safely dispose of your medications when you mix them with another substance such as old coffee grounds. For a drop off location in the San Francisco Bay Area visit sfenvironment.org/recyclewhere.
- Be aware and get help if you suspect friends or family members may have taken prescription or street drugs.
To learn more visit The Medicine Abuse Project and the National Coalition Against Prescription Drug Abuse.
Remember “one pill can kill.”
Did you like this article? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below. Also, if you need to contact me, please feel free to use the contact form or e-mail me directly at (email@example.com) I always love hearing from you.
Click here to find out more.