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On Wednesday, February 22nd, federal agents and local police raided several operations that deal in the sale of prescription pain medications here in South Florida.  The pain management facilities, or “pill mills,” typically have an in-house doctor who will assess and prescribe narcotic pain medication on site, and often times, will even have an in-house pharmacy to dispense the medication. 

The problem arises when the doctors “over prescribe” medication to patients.  Many of these doctors have been prescribing extremely high amounts of narcotic pain medication to patients who may not necessarily need such high doses.  The problem can be compounded by the fact that Florida does not currently have a system in place to track the number of times a patient has already visited a pain management facility that month.  This means that patients can visit several doctors and get numerous prescriptions filled every month.  This has caused an epidemic of prescription medication abuse here in Florida, and elsewhere in the country. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Center for Substance Abuse Prevention, prescription pain medication abuse is at an all-time high.  Here are some of the statistics:

  • About 1 in 5 teens gets high by abusing painkillers.
  • Over 2 million teens reported abusing prescription drugs in 2006.
  • 2,500 teens abuse prescription drugs for the first time each day.
  • Though men and boys are far more likely to abuse street drugs, women and teen girls are more likely to abuse prescription drugs, partly because painkiller abuse is more socially acceptable than street drug use.
  • Women are more likely than men to end up in the emergency room or a drug treatment program due to abuse of prescription drugs.
  • Men generally abuse drugs for the feelings of pleasure, while women are more likely to do so to get a perceived release from their problems.
  • Though older adults make up just 13 percent of the U.S. population, they get about 33 percent of the prescription medications.
  • Experts predict that abuse of prescription drugs among older adults will increase by 190 percent by 2020.
  • The U.S. is the world’s largest consumer of painkillers, using 71 percent of the world’s Oxycodone and 99 percent of the world’s Hydrocodone, or Vicodin.
  • In 1991 there were 40 million prescriptions for painkillers worldwide, but by 2001, there were 180 million painkiller prescriptions, most of them in the U.S.
  • 7 of the 11 drugs most commonly abused by high school students are prescription or over-the-counter drugs.
  • A 2006 survey found that 7 million people 12 and over had abused prescription or over the counter drugs in the past 30 days. Most abused painkillers.
  • 2.2 million People age 12 and up started abusing painkillers in the last year.
  • Young adults, age 18 to 25, show the most painkiller use and the greatest increases in abuse.
  • About 1 in 4 teens will abuse prescription drugs before they graduate from high school
  • Emergency room visits related to painkiller use rose 153 percent from 1995 to 2002.
  • Admissions to drug treatment programs for people using painkillers rose 321 percent from 1995 to 2005.
  • The number of people abusing painkillers is estimated to have risen from half a million to 2.5 million between 1985 and 2002.
  • Deaths related to painkiller use rose 160 percent from 1999 to 2004.
  • The abuse of painkillers causes more deaths than heroin and cocaine combined.

The raids performed this week are only a start toward slowing the painkiller epidemic in this country.  There will always be people searching for ways to obtain drugs; the problem is that they can obtain dangerous medications today with such ease and frequency. 

Tony Martino
Alumni Dept. Director
Cell – 215.896.7859
Office – 561.278.5800 ext. 160

[email protected]

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