Two large bottles of liquid oxycondone proved a powerful visual for the practice of over-prescribing pain medication that leads to or aids in prescription drug abuse at Wednesday’s panel presentation discussing the growing national trend, hosted by Chico State University in California.
The three-hour panel presentation was put together by Not in our Town Glenn County, managed by Jim Bettencourt and attend by 60 students, parents and community members. OxyWatchdog contributor Esmeralda F. Ramirez was there to hear what the panel had to say.
According to Bettencourt, the irresponsibility of doctors prescribing an excess of a drug is not uncommon and many physicians do not screen patients to see what is in their bodies. When a patient in pain is asking for a large amount of Vicodin, for example, the physician should ask for a simple urine test to check for existing medication in the patient’s system and prescribe the necessary amount of drugs, he said.
When patients want more than what they are prescribed, it’s a sign that they have become addicted, said Salvadore Biondolillo of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, which is sponsoring this Saturday’s Take-Back Day. A classic example, he said, is a patient that has been taking hydrocodone, then switches to oxycodone, then OxyContin, and finally to heroin because it is much cheaper than prescription drugs.
A dangerous online world
If someone with an addiction cannot get enough of their prescription drug of choice from a physician, they go online, according to Biondolillo. Websites are one of the reasons prescription drug abuse has been increasing in the past few years, he said: there are sites that contain a multitude of information for many kinds of prescription drugs, and it is difficult to monitor all of them. Biondolillo refers to the Internet as “the perfect storm” because prescriptions that come from overseas are not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, or are often placebos, he said.
Drugs next door
Another way addicts find prescription drugs is through friends, family or street sells, Biondolillo said. When physicians prescribe a excessive amount of drugs, there are bound to be leftovers, said Lee Snook, medical director of the Metropolitan Pain Management Consultants Inc. There are a lot of cases in which the leftovers are divided and sold on the street or are given for free to friends and family as experimentation, he said.
A generation of young addicts
The best place to discuss and educate the community about the rising problem of prescription drug abuse is in colleges throughout the U.S., according to Susan Foster, vice president and director of policy, research and analysis at the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASA). College is where young people start to experiment, she said, and prescription drug abuse on many college campuses is rampant.
One interesting sidenote: a study by CASA found that in the early 1990s, those that used prescription drugs to get high were people who had already been using illicit drugs such as cocaine or heroin, Foster said. In the early- to mid-2000s, however, the study showed that prescription drug abuse was coming from high school and college students, she said. They were experimenting with those drugs, replacing marijuana as the experimentation drug historically common among younger generations.
There are different reasons why people begin abusing illicit drugs and other substances, Foster noted. But when it comes to prescription drugs, advertising – to which young people are particularly susceptible – plays a role because it creates a mindset that everything can be cured with a pill.
“We have to change the culture of this disorder,” Foster said.
Pills as life-threatening as guns
Although the choice is always up to the individual, parents play a big role in helping their children stay away from prescription drugs, according to Snook. Prescription drugs are like guns, he said. They both kill, and they both need to be locked away from children and disposed of properly if they are not needed anymore.
Snook, for his part, tries to help people recover because he himself is a former addict and understands the hardships associated with addiction.
“I see Satan’s eyes in the person I’m trying to save,” Snook said.
By Esmeralda F. Ramirez, exclusive to OxyWatchdog