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Pill Problems



Published: Sun, July 3, 2011 @ 12:00 a.m.

DRUG ADDICTS MAY BE LIVING IN YOUR HOUSE

By William K. Alcorn

alcorn@vindy.com

Parents and grand- parents: Wake up.

Count your pain pills.

Then lock them up.

If you are a capsule or two short at the end of the month, you unwittingly may have helped start your child or grandchild or their friends down the path to prescription-drug abuse or addiction, health officials say.

Prescription-drug abuse and addiction is epidemic in the Mahoning Valley and across the state and nation. Many teens and young adults feed their habit by stealing drugs from the people closest to them — their families.

Next to marijuana, prescription drugs are the country’s most-abused substances involving those 12 and older, according to the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Painkillers such as OxyContin and Percocet, sedatives such as Xanax or Valium, and stimulants such as Ritalin and Adderall are most-often abused, said Kenneth Michael Hale, Ph.D., assistant dean and clinical associate professor at the Ohio State University College of Pharmacy.

“We know that about 7,000 people in this country every day start abusing one of these drugs for the first time. About 2,500 of those are teens, 70 percent of whom get the drugs from family or friends,” Hale said.

Experts say prescription-drug addictions cross all social and economic strata.

Last week, Thomas R. Altiere Jr., 32, son of Trumbull County Sheriff Thomas Altiere, pleaded guilty to using deception to obtain prescriptions from multiple doctors and multiple pharmacies.

While working as a security officer at St. Joseph Health Center, Warren, Altiere Jr. left his job to obtain prescriptions and the drug Hydrocodone, another pain medication.

Sheriff Altiere said his son’s painkillers’ addiction occurred after sustaining back-to-back injuries including a broken ankle.

“I just wish the doctors and pharmacists had run checks to see what and how much painkiller he was taking,” the sheriff said. “He didn’t want to become addicted, it just happened.”

So serious is prescription-drug abuse in the state that Gov. John R. Kasich recently signed an executive order authorizing the Ohio Medical Board to establish standards for the state’s pain-management clinics to prevent them from operating as so-called “pill mills.”

Authorities define a pill mill as a place where prescription drugs are sold, often at reduced prices, for nonmedical reasons.

Though it’s a felony in Ohio to obtain controlled substances without a prescription, these medications are today’s drugs of choice chiefly because of the mistaken perception they are safe and legal alternatives to street drugs, Hale said.

In fact, 40 percent of teens in a survey conducted by the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, said they believed abusing prescription drugs is much safer than street drugs. That is false, Hale said, adding that an additional 29 percent said they believed prescription painkillers are not addictive, which he said also is not true.

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Avon, said prescription-drug abuse is a problem Ohio cannot afford to ignore.

“In recent years, prescription-drug overdoses have killed more Ohioans than car crashes. It’s likely that a teenager who lives on your block, a member of your community, or even a relative uses powerful painkillers, like OxyContin, that have not been prescribed to that person,” he said.

And, as more Ohioans grow addicted to painkillers, unscrupulous people are cashing in on their addictions, Brown said, leading him to introduce the Stop Trafficking of Pills (STOP) Act to eliminate Medicaid fraud.

Lax Medicaid rules make it too easy for people to acquire prescriptions for drugs like oxycodone and morphine from multiple doctors and fill them at multiple pharmacies, Brown said, adding that people who commit Medicaid fraud then sell the extra medications to addicts while taxpayers foot the bill.

Brown urged Florida Gov. Rick Scott to halt his efforts to eliminate Florida’s prescription-drug monitoring program to help keep the flow of illegal prescription drugs out of Ohio.

“The prescription-drug pipeline in Florida supplies Ohio and other states with oxycodone all along the I-75 corridor,” he said.

Health officials urge people who legally receive prescription drugs to be more careful about keeping the drugs out of the wrong hands. Unused medicines should be disposed of properly.

Those who steal prescription drugs aren’t just raiding the family medicine cabinets. They also target the mailboxes of elderly people who receive medication via mail. Others crash real-estate agents’ open houses to rob medicine cabinets.

The abuse of the drugs is almost as creative as the methods used to obtain them.

Teens and young adults are abusing prescription drugs at so-called “pharm parties,” where pills and capsules are put in a bowl and participants take turns taking handfuls of them, Hale said.

Hale said there are numerous layers to solving the problem.

“We need treatment, counseling and law enforcement; but we think there is a dire need for prevention education,” he said.

He added, “In our presentations, we are finding that there is a clear misconception of the safety and legality of using prescription drugs. As a result, we are developing tools to change those perceptions, such as using students for peer-to-peer dialogue.

“These drugs can be good for us. ... We’re living longer and happier. But if they are abused and not used properly, they are really dangerous.”


Comments

1CassAnn(252 comments)posted 2 years, 9 months ago

The first step to avoiding drug addiction to prescription medications is counseling the patient one on one when the prescription is handed to the patient. I am allergic to anti inflammatory medications and am left with narcotics to take if I suffer from severe pain. I was concerned with addiction when I needed narcotics long term and I talked to my doctor and he explained to me how to properly use the medication, including how and when to stop taking it and how to avoid addiction. You can't just hand out prescriptions for addictive substances and expect people to figure it out on their own. Same goes for teenagers. They need to be taught and shown what happens to drug addicts and how they get that way BEFORE they try it the first time. It might not stop all of it, but it would go a long way to curbing it.

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2Ytownnative(984 comments)posted 2 years, 9 months ago

these doctors and dentists need to quit giving it out like candy. My daughter had her wisdom teeth pulled and got a prescription for 60 vicodin with refills. She only needed them for a few days why all the extra pills?

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3GPackwood(34 comments)posted 2 years, 9 months ago

Prescription-drug abuse and addiction is epidemic in the Mahoning Valley?

Who said the abuse and addiction is epidemic?

Where are the proper research studies referenced or is this just another epidemic of the day.

Epidemic du Jour!

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4vinquirer(7 comments)posted 2 years, 9 months ago

Who is your daughter's dentist, ytownnative?

And is he taking new patients?

Rimshot, please!

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5tonne(199 comments)posted 2 years, 9 months ago

I don't understand how a person can "not want to be addicted." When my doctor suggests a new procedure or prescribes a new medication, I ask him about them in detail. I believe that as a responsible patient this is what I should do. In addition, my pharmacy gives me a computer printout with every precription I have filled, including refills, that tells me specifically what my medication does, how it interacts with other meds -- both prescribed and OTC, whether or not it can be addictive and so on. If Mr. Altiere's doctor or pharmacy didn't warn him about his pain medication, he should have asked. As the son of a law enforcement officer, it is hard to believe his addiction "just happened." As for "pharm" parties, I have seen and read stories about them both on television and in print several times in the last couple of years. Shows like "Law and Order" have even used them in story lines. If a grandmother my age knows about them, it's difficult to imagine that today's parents don't. Mr. Alcorn is a little behind in giving us this story. The horse has already left the barn. And as for educating people regarding the dangers of prescription drug abuse, hasn't our national War on Drugs already shown us how effective drug education is? Maybe it's time, as with gang violence and crime in the hood, we stopped coddling drug abusers and making excuses for them and started enforcing our laws against their criminal behavior.

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6candystriper(571 comments)posted 2 years, 9 months ago

... Fox had a story on the Long Island pharmacy killing and a guest said that the number one target now is the home or office of any physician for theft of prescription pads...

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7taxpayer1001(274 comments)posted 2 years, 9 months ago

The worst part about this is there are many people with chronic pain and illness that need the medication and take it responsibly. The people that get it illegally to sell or take in excess are making it hard on those that really need it. New drug laws are making it hard for a respectable physician to treat a patient in a responsible manner. I've been seeing more of this at work since the new law that went into effect June 1st.

And it SHOULD be common sense not to leave narcotics out where a teen or whoever can steal them, but then again many things I think are common sense don't hold true for many

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8CassAnn(252 comments)posted 2 years, 9 months ago

Tonne you don't understand people then. The amount of people who will fill a prescription and take the medication without ever doing any research or asking the Dr any questions is unbelievable. Some aren't intelligent enough, some don't care, some would never have enough gumption to question their Dr. Dr's also have some accountability in this with their 15 minute hurry up and leave appointments too. Everyone is always in a hurry. A few months ago there was a young lady that was pregnant and accidentally given an abortion drug with a similar name to the correct drug she was supposed to take. She didn't look at the hand out from the pharmacy until she had already taken a dose.

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9lovedrama(138 comments)posted 2 years, 9 months ago

Just goes to show how stupid teenagers are if they're really having "Pharm parties'

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10Traveler(606 comments)posted 2 years, 9 months ago

We are losing the drug war ! Drugs are destroying the families of our country which are the bedrock of our country. Its past time to take a long hard look at what works in american drug policy's and what doesn't. For our elected officials to sit down like adults and come up with a better plan

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