Prescription pain medications becoming a plague on society
Hernando TodayThe issue: Addiction to prescription pain medications. Our opinion: It has become an epidemic. Lawmakers must act to control distribution.
Published: May 22, 2010
Published: May 22, 2010
The addiction to prescription pain medications in Hernando County - and many other communities throughout Florida - has risen to epidemic proportions.
Giving credence to this was last week's arrest of 23 people involved in what the Hernando County Sheriff's Office called an organized prescription drug ring. Eight others, including one of the ringleaders, had yet to be taken into custody.
That's 31 individuals - 17 women and 14 men - involved in reproducing fake prescriptions to illegally acquire pain medications by the thousands to sell and feed their personal addictions.
Authorities also recently shut down a pain management clinic in Tampa, where the drugs were being distributed like Skittles from a candy store - many to high school students who would then peddle them to classmates.
The chain of addicts was growing daily.
What's more scary is the number of Floridians dying from prescription drug overdoses.
In 2006, there were 29 Hernando Countians who fatally overdosed on prescription medication. Sheriff Richard Nugent told reporters during a press conference last week following the bust that the county is on pace for 50 deaths this year.
The sheriff's office aptly named the drug sting "Operation Oxy-Blues" after the most notoriously abused pain medication and the tragedy it brings to those who become addicted to it.
Oxycodone, one of the most powerful prescription pain-relieving drugs on the market, is also one of the most addictive. In the first six months of 2009, oxycodone caused more deaths in Florida than any other drug, according to the state Medical Examiner. During that time, more than three times as many overdose deaths were caused by oxycodone than by the total caused by cocaine or heroin in Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas counties.
People who suffer from pain and take the drug often end up becoming addicted. We've seen it happen to friends and family members, upstanding individuals thought to be the least likely to ever become drug addicts.
But it happened to them anyway.
Chronic pain is a terrible burden to live with. Oxycodone helps relieve that pain. But like many medications, it has side affects that often bring about unintended consequences.
For those with chronic pain, doctors need to be more judicious about prescribing powerful pain killers like oxycodone that patients easily become addicted to. Patients need to understand just how addictive the drugs can become. They should be wary of their use.
Consequently, the state Legislature needs to closely examine this growing epidemic and act quickly. A special session would make good sense.
Lawmakers need to come up with solutions to better control the distribution of prescription pain medications. Doctors and pharmacists who prescribe and distribute the drugs should be held to higher accountability, with harsher punishments for violations.
For illegal drug users who forge prescriptions and buy and sell the drugs to get high, we're grateful to the Hernando County Sheriff's Office and vice unit detectives who busted this prescription drug ring.
The spread of this plague is quickly becoming pervasive in our society. From rich to poor and every socio-economic class in between - prescription pain killers are an equal opportunity life and family destroyer.
Pharmaceutical companies also bear much of the responsibility for the rise in the illegal use of the drugs they manufacture.
After all, who's making all these pills that are ruining the lives of so many who've become addicted? How much has production risen in recent years? Is anyone paying attention or is it just about the almighty dollar?
Pharmaceutical companies could one day end up like tobacco companies, paying class-action lawsuits to states for the damage on society these drugs have caused.
Yes, prescription pain medications have a place in our society. They are a godsend to many who suffer debilitating, chronic pain.
However, their use is out of control and drastic steps must be taken to curb this abuse. Too many people are dying.