DEA official addresses prescription drug abuse ‘epidemic’ (En)
It is one of the biggest health problems of our generation. Federal officials know it, even going to the extreme of giving it the title of “epidemic.” Prescription drugs are plentiful and contain ingredients that make them more potent than the glamour drugs of the ’70s and ’80s.
Is there a cure-all? An official from the U.S Drug Enforcement Agency who addressed an audience at Bristol Regional Medical Center says no, but it will take all members of communities coming together and having realistic goals to save lives that are being lost by the thousands.
DEA Executive Assistant to the Office of Diversion Control Robert Hill says two major factors have caused the prescription drug abuse problem, recently classified as an epidemic by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to escalate: those who are addicted who will satisfy their craving at any cost and drug prescribers who are willing to throw ethics out the window for profit.
“When you get an addiction to drugs and an addiction for profit, and you do not care who you hurt and they come together, then the problem explodes,” Hill said.
The Appalachian and Southwest portions of the United States lead the U.S. in the number of unintentional overdose deaths, Hill explained. Hill produced CDC data from a July 2013 study that said people living in rural areas are among the highest at risk along with Medicaid patients, who are being prescribed painkillers at twice the rate of non-Medicaid patients.
“There is a belief right now in our society that a pill will cure everything,” Hill said. “We have a sensational appetite for drugs and no matter what the problem is, a pill will solve it. That and many other factors are bringing about a perfect storm. Another factor is what we in law enforcement call the fifth vital sign. The doctor will check your temperature, heart rate, blood pressure, and your breathing. Now, they also ask you what your pain level is.”
Hill says law enforcement officers arresting their way out of the problem is not going to solve the prob-lem of the sell-and-trade, then abuse of the pills being sold on the street for sometimes $200 a tablet, de-pending on the medication. Rather, a strategy based more on educating the public on how drastic death rates are rising and advocating for better solutions from the drug manufacturer and the public will go far in the fight.
“You would hope education would help curb the demand for the drug, but we also have to install better treatment for the abuser,” he said. “It will be a cooperative effort that will involve all of us.”
KEVIN CASTLE, BRISTOL HERALD COURIER