(Lawrenceburg, Ind.) – The findings of a new national report looking at prescription drug abuse can be applied to southeast Indiana.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the nation has seen four times more deaths from prescription painkillers such as OxyContin and hydrocodone than there were a decade ago. In 2008, there were 15,000 deaths attributed to the abuse, more than heroin and cocaine combined.
While abusers often don’t have to look further than a friend or relative’s medicine cabinet for small amounts painkillers, there are two other methods of obtaining pills which are major contributors to the problem.
There are pain clinics which many argue are too lax in doling out pills to those who ask for them. Such facilities have been labeled “pill mills.”
Addicts will also resort to “doctor shopping” as a way to obtain more pills for themselves or to be sold at a profit. In the practice, an individual will obtain pills in one state or locality, then visit another doctor or pharmacy elsewhere to obtain a new prescription or have the same prescription filled again.
Dearborn County Citizens Against Substance Abuse, or CASA, executive director Donna Thacker says the epidemic problem is cause for even more concern in rural communities, where people are twice as likely to overdose on prescription painkillers as those in bigger cities.
“This certainly points to the problem of ‘pill mills’ in our country as well as the need for education among physicians and health professionals in general. Certainly more screening as far as the potential for abuse and addiction needs to be in place prior to prescribing these narcotics,” Thacker says.
According to 2008 data from the CDC, Indiana was 19th in the nation with 13.2 people per 1,000 who died of a drug overdose. Kentucky was sixth with 17.9 and Ohio was tenth with 15.1 per 1,000 people.
Forty-eight states including Indiana, Ohio, and Kentucky have enacted laws in recent years to begin keeping electronic databases to track and identify improper prescribing of painkillers by pharmacies and doctors offices.
Thacker says only three percent of the nation’s physicians are prescribing 62 percent of the opiates.
The center’s recent report also found 12 million Americans age 12 and older used a narcotic painkiller without a prescription in 2009, resulting in nearly 500,000 emergency room visits nationwide.
The full CDC report can be found at http://www.cdc.gov/Features/VitalSigns/PainkillerOverdoses/.