Prescription Drug Addiction Continues To Increase


About one year ago, Jason Eccker began working at a St. Louis residential facility for the treatment of drug abuse addicts. He stated he rarely counseled a cocaine or a methamphetamine addict, but that addictions to opiate are now the most common drug addiction problems among patients under 25 years old.
The Harris House facility had to make expansion plans because of how much their long-term care waiting list has grown. Patients now have to wait sixteen weeks for admission, when the wait just a year ago was four weeks.
The opiate addiction increase is following a local trend where each year more people are overdosing on heroin. One reason is that the heroin potency has increase from what it was in the past, and is now sold often in pill form instead of a syringe. The pills are less intimidating to someone who wants to try it. In 2011, at least 178 people died from a heroin overdose, in St. Louis county and city. This is an increase from the 126 people who died of the same kind of overdose in 2010, according to medical examiners. Because they are so worried about a heroin epidemic, parents have started support groups and created events aimed at education about the drug. Law enforcement agencies in the local area have concentrated their efforts against this dangerous drug.
Eccker said even though heroin is increasing in popularity, people with pain killer addiction will eventually turn to the drug because it is less expensive than prescription painkillers. He went on to say many addicts start with over the counter medication abuse and move on to Oxycontin and Percocet, for instance, because they produce a similar euphoria as heroin.
Eccker explained that there is a sort of innocent thinking that a prescription pill will not become a problem because it is legal, but the person then ends up taking heroin, the dangerous and illegal street drug.
This drug problem is not specific to St. Louis. According to the Centers for Disease Control, each year more people die in the United States from an overdose of painkillers than from cocaine and heroin combined.
To prevent abuse and people selling prescriptions drugs, many states have put drug monitoring in place. Only two states—New Hampshire and Missouri—do not have monitoring programs or any plans to establish such a law or program. Efforts to establish such a program have been proposed by Missouri house members but their attempts failed. Opponents to the monitoring cite cost and privacy issues. Those who advocate for the program say dealers or drug addicts at present can visit many different doctors with the same complaint about pain in order to get prescriptions from each. Doctors, also, can over-prescribe pills to those who can pay, and operate pill mills. State monitoring programs vary, but some states  have a central database of prescriptions and law enforcement, pharmacists and doctors can view the records.
Other states allow only law enforcement to view records. Opponents of too much monitoring worry about privacy concerns and whether it will deter doctors from prescribing painkillers for legitimate purposes to patients in need.