Deaths from prescription drug abuse at `epidemic levels`

A study released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last November asserts that in the past decade the number of deaths caused by the overdose of prescription painkillers in the United States has more than tripled.

The CDC reports that these deaths are now at “epidemic levels,” and causing more deaths than those caused by overdoses of cocaine and heroin combined.

The drugs responsible, the CDC says, are narcotic pain relievers such as Vicodin, OxyContin, Opana and methadone, which are now prescribed at such a magnitude that in 2010, the number of opiate prescriptions could medicate every American adult 24 hours a day for a month.

According to Reagen Clayton, chairman of the Carroll Meth Awareness Coalition and an investigator with the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office, the problem is exacerbated by the sheer volume of these drugs and their ease of access.

“Unfortunately, we have to remind folks we’re still out here trying to raise awareness with the CMAC and the sheriff’s office. The sheriff’s office participates in the [Drug Enforcement Administration’s] pill take-back for these very reasons,” he said. “We urge folks to get this stuff out of their house and encourage them to bring them to the sheriff’s office for proper disposal. Whether or not a person intentionally or purposefully overdoses, there’s not much difference between the two.”

The CMAC’s 2011 Drug Awareness Summit was focused on this rising trend, and Clayton said the local effects of the growing prevalence of these pharmaceuticals and the problems they cause cannot be ignored.

“Something like that would come in waves. Prescription drug abuse is a close second to any one particular addiction to a specific drug like meth or crack addiction,” he said. “Specifically with prescription abuse, it affects not only the experienced, older person, it could be a gateway type of an abuse for teenagers. It’s the whole spectrum from start to finish.”

As the sheriff’s office and CMAC continue to fight these addictions at their start, other law enforcement agencies are seeing some of the results of these addictions, and the unfortunate profitability that comes with them.

Sgt. Matt Howard of the Carrollton Police Department’s Drug Enforcement Division said that the city’s major battle has been with prescription forgeries in recent months.

“What we have seen is definitely an increase in prescription pill abuse and selling,” Howard said. “But what we typically deal with are the forgeries from it, where people who are actually addicted to it will go out and commit forgeries and create fake prescriptions or call them in. Or you’ve got these people that will basically buy everyone’s legal prescriptions and they’ll turn around and sell those.”

Adding to the problem, he said, some doctors will overwrite prescriptions, rather than properly check the nature of an injury or illness.

“If your doctor will give you a prescription for Loracet, and you don’t like it or use it, then I’ll pay you for it and then I’ll turn around and sell it,” he said. “We work those cases the same way we work the others. Generally we utilize our informants. They know where these pill mills are and they go by and buy. If the doctors are overwriting, they’ll write prescriptions and never do any X-rays or MRIs.”

Clayton said that CMAC and the sheriff’s office offer information on prescription abuse and other sorts of crime through their websites: and To volunteer with CMAC, email Clayton at

Read more: Times-Georgian – Deaths from prescription drug abuse at epidemic levels

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Posted by on Jan 6 2012. Filed under Breaking News, Prescription Drugs. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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