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Opiates: The Growing Threat

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Reading a newspaper is sobering business, forgive the play on words. Police blotters and newspapers across the country are documenting the alarming trend of painkiller abuse and addiction. And if you look close enough, you’ll find that it may be your neighbor, the local pharmacist or the kids’ bus driver who’s fallen prey to this scourge.
What’s most alarming is that people you would never suspect of falling into addiction are – high school kids, college-age students, housewives and businessmen. There used to be a time – not so long ago – that the profile of a drug abuser or addict brought to mind the worst of society. That logic no longer applies.
The use of drugs such as Opana has skyrocketed in recent years. Law enforcement officials say the problem is complex. On one hand, there is a trend of overprescribing among some doctors. “Pill mills,” or unscrupulous pain management clinics, pose another threat by doling out scores of pills, often without asking for a prescription. The Internet teems with websites that offer up dangerous pills marketed by overseas companies who don’t care about your safety or wellbeing.
Talk to any police officer, and he or she will tell you that a significant percentage of crime in a given community is directly or indirectly related to drugs of all kinds – robberies, assaults, domestic violence, home invasions and homicide. Personal and property crimes often have a tie to drug making, distribution or addiction. In fact, data from the Substance Abuse And Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) shows a 400 percent increase in the number of people seeking help for painkiller addiction between 1998 and 2008.
People who suffer with pain med addiction are getting desperate. And they may be driving on the road next to you, sitting beside you at church or doing work around your home. The best thing you can do if you have a prescription for an opiate painkiller is to lock it up. And tell no one where it is.
Community efforts to stem the flow of opiates and other potentially dangerous medications include drug drop off sites, which allow people to discard unused medication, which will be safely disposed of by officials. Doctors are protecting themselves by making patients sign documents that discourage abuse by threatening random drug tests or counting remaining pills.
OxyContin, one of the biggest threats, was originally designed to dissuade abuse. Its time-release feature slowly releases medication into the system without providing the “rush” some abusers seek. But these people caught on quickly, realizing the medication could be crushed and inhaled or prepared for injection.
One OxyContin pill on the street can fetch more than $100 on the street. Law enforcement officials say it costs about $1 per milligram.
Heroin is showing up in the suburbs in record amounts and officials say this is because it’s cheaper than OxyContin, yet it satisfies the same physical and psychological opiate cravings.
We are all one injury or illness away from needing a prescription opiate painkiller. They absolutely can be taken safely and responsibly. Professional opiate detox may be necessary if use escalates and there are signs of abuse or addiction.

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