Archive for Sunday, June 10, 2012

Underground prescription drugs an ‘epidemic’

Abuse of medicine increasing across Kansas

June 10, 2012


Top 10 prescriptions

Top 10 medication prescriptions filled by Kansas pharmacies in 2011, followed by the condition they treat:

• Vicodin with aspirin: 1.5 million, pain

• Ambien: 519,542, insomnia

• Xanax: 494,555, anxiety

• Ultram: 380,656, pain

• Percocet with aspirin: 329,585, pain

• Klonopin: 265,197, pain and seizures

• Ativan: 254,707, anxiety

• Adderall: 209,047, ADHD

• Percocet: 171,545, pain

• Ritalin: 158,625, ADHD

On a daily basis, people in Lawrence engage in an underground economy of selling and buying prescription pain medications, said a Douglas County mother of two.

“Dispersed all over town,” said the woman, who began abusing prescription pain medications like Oxycontin over the past couple of years. “It’s a huge epidemic.”

She did it all while raising two children and living a “regular life.”

“You would have no idea,” said the woman, who asked to remain anonymous. She said she nearly died after an overdose of pain medications in September. Sometimes to avoid the withdrawal effects, the woman would pay up to $100 for one pill.

The abuse of such prescription pain medications — opioids derived from the same source as heroin — is increasing across the state, according to data obtained from the Kansas State Board of Pharmacy.

Four of the top 10 medications prescribed since 2010 in Kansas were pain medications, such as Vicodin and Percocet. Physicians prescribed more than 44 million pills of hydrocodone, the generic name for Vicodin, last year alone. All four of those medications have seen increases since 2010.

Deaths from opioid overdoses have increased fourfold since 1999, with 97 such deaths recorded in Kansas by hospitals in 2011.

The over-prescribing of such medications is creating addiction problems for patients across the country, said Richard Chapman, director of the University of Utah’s Pain Medication Research Center.

“People are prescribing opioids like crazy,” Chapman said. “It’s all over the country.”

Chapman said the rise in the past decade of prescriptions for pain medications started as a well-intentioned effort by doctors who saw the pain-relief benefits of such drugs on terminally ill cancer patients.

Doctors then began prescribing opioids for everything from arthritis to back pain.

A main issue with the increase in prescribing opioids for pain is a lack of controlled studies on their effects in non-cancer patients, Chapman said.

The increased use has caused a “host of complications we’d never imagine,” including decreased energy, and ironically an increased sensitivity to pain, Chapman said.

Jeff Sigler, a Lawrence pharmacist, said that in addition to a willingness by physicians to prescribe opioid medications for pain, societal shifts in how Americans tolerate pain has played a role in an increased use of opioids. Instead of toughing it out, people go to the doctor.

“Our society is less tolerant to pain than we used to be,” Sigler said.

And people are more sedentary, which can exacerbate back pain problems, one of the major ailments reported by those prescribed pain medications, Sigler said.

‘It’s a game’

Jan Campbell, an addictions psychiatrist at the Kansas University Medical Center, said common sense measures and guidelines for physicians can reduce opioid abuse. For instance, doctors who prescribe such medications need to thoroughly evaluate patients, requiring documentation of pain-related ailments and history. And doctors need to inform patients about the abuse potential of opioids and how to get help if they notice signs of addiction.

Several states, such as Florida, have enacted measures to prevent overprescribing, including requiring a blood test of patients so doctors can see whether a patient already has opioids in his or her system.

While those measures could cut down the number of people who “doctor shop” for opioids, it wouldn’t prevent all forms of abuse.

The Douglas County woman who struggled with opioid addiction bought her opioids from a man whose mother was legitimately prescribed Oxycontin for terminal cancer. The man’s mother would keep enough for her own supply and make thousands of dollars every month selling off hundreds of other pills.

When the woman’s supplier was out of the medications, getting them from another source was no problem.

“It’s a game,” she said, detailing the network of local people actively engaged daily in selling and using prescription opioids.

Her abuse and addiction just kept ratcheting up, and she needed more and more of the drugs to hold back withdrawal effects.

“It really took over,” she said.

She lost her job, her home and her car. As she approached rock bottom, she began scraping off — then shooting intravenously — the residue from a pain medication patch, which when worn slowly releases the drug into the body. When injected, the effects are quicker and more potent.

In September, she was rushed to a hospital after she stopped breathing while using opioids.

“I was dead,” said the woman, who required resuscitation. She remembers little of her weeks-long hospital stay or the overdose. “My body was done.”

Fear of losing custody of her two children provided enough incentive to get clean, said the woman, who hasn’t used opioids in eight months.

She’s slowly rebuilding the regular life she once had, hoping to put her time as an opioid addict behind here.

“It’s not easy,” she said.

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Top 10 in 2011

Graph shows the top 10 medication prescriptions filled in Kansas pharmacies in 2011. Date provided by the Kansas State Board of Pharmacy.

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Top 10 prescriptions

Chart shows the top 10 medications filled in Kansas in 2010, 2011, and 2012. The 2010 numbers are projected from six months of data, and the 2012 numbers are projected from four months of 2012 data. Information provided by the Kansas State Board of Pharmacy.

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Prescriptions 2011

This is a list of prescriptions filled by Kansas pharmacies in 2011. Data provided by the Kansas State Board of Pharmacy.


Crazy_Larry 1 year, 10 months ago

Let's have a War on Prescription Drugs! Send the jackboots to Rush Limbaugh's house asap. Kick in the door, shoot the dog, and shoot Rush when he attempts to defend himself from the home invaders with a golf club. Make it so!


thuja 1 year, 10 months ago

A doctor can help 'save your life' by keeping you from dying when your time has come, but what do you get by cheating death?

Does medicine improve your life?- if making you stay alive when you should be dead means pain, or addiction to pain killers, not to mention huge bills and mountains of medicines, and possibly an emotional and financial burden on your loved ones and/or society??

Maybe just letting go would be better. Accepting death makes life better?

Any thoughts?


Flap Doodle 1 year, 10 months ago

Legalize everything and put a Stop and Pop on every corner. Thanks to the inevitable ODs, the number of hypes and hopheads would start to diminish.


outoftownmonday 1 year, 10 months ago

Here's another clever way addicts get prescription narcotics - THEY STEAL THEM!!!!!! We live in a very well known apartment complex in town. There was a rash of home invasions, over a couple of years, where the only thing taken was the persons prescription medications. Now, the dots were not connected until the person was caught red handed inside someones apartment where she was not supposed to be. The person is the property managers DAUGHTER!!!!! She is the suspect in DOZENS (over 30) police reported burglaries where the only thing taken was narcotics. Her MO was to knock on the door and if no one answered she would enter using the master keys that she had access to through her parents who are the property managers. She has not been charged because she was never caught red handed with drugs in her possession so I will not post her name here. What is disturbing is that her parents continue to be property managers for these properties (multiple) so she basically still has access to keys. She has been issued no trespassing warnings for all of the properties, however, she is an addict and we all know how desparate addicts are. I am not confident at all that she is not still entering peoples homes and stealing from them.


FalseHopeNoChange 1 year, 10 months ago

"The First Gay President" knew how to handle drugs. Being the Leader of the "Choom Gang" helped I'm guessing.

More 2009 e-mails show extent of drug industry’s involvement in health care push POSTED AT 6:41 PM ON JUNE 8, 2012 BY ERIKA JOHNSEN

A fat stack of recently released e-mails between the White House and pharmaceutical interests are showing just how well the two parties worked together in 2009 in the epic quest to make President Obama’s health care overhaul more palatable. In that special D.C. “I’ll scratch your back, you scratch mine” kind of relationship, the White House got the drug industry to pay for millions of dollars in pro-ObamaCare ads. It would almost be depressing, if it weren’t so tremendously unsurprising. From the WSJ:

The emails also show that the money for the ad campaign from drug-industry companies, health-care lobbies and unions went through nonprofit groups that didn’t have to disclose their donors. One such organization, Healthy Economy Now, was created in the spring of 2009 in conjunction with White House officials and the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee according to the emails. …

The emails, released by Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, reveal financial details about the arrangements with PhRMA and others to promote the planned legislation, and the development of administration’s t message, tying the high costs of health care to the future of the U.S. economy. …

The emails show that drug makers hesitated to agree to pony up a lot of money for the ads without proof that their desires and concerns were reflected in the deal with the administration. One email from a Democratic consultant to PhRMA sent to other PhRMA folks on June 3, 2009, said that the start of the ads, and the “spend” on airtime “depends on how things develop.”

(from the source)


camper 1 year, 10 months ago

My opinion is that if you have pain and require medication, think of treating two things.....your injury and dependence prevention. I have always had a slight withdrawl effect after completing a prescription. I think doctors can help by rotating medication to lessen the risk of addiction.....but I imagine it is important to ask your doctor.


deathpenaltyliberal 1 year, 10 months ago

"snap_pop_no_crackle (anonymous) says… In bad news for choom gang:..."

Typical spam from this lying delta bravo.


jafs 1 year, 10 months ago

For those who believe that drugs should be legal, what's the justification for limiting prescription drugs?


Liberty275 1 year, 10 months ago

Between kidney and knee afflictions last year I took a few hundred codones, oxy or hydro. I had no problem with them and they made what was some pretty nasty pain go away. No withdrawals ever, but they do mess up your ability to rid your body of waste. If I have more pain, I'll get more. Otherwise, I have no need for them.

Junkies, don't mess it up for the rest of us. Get your stuff together, and don't give those legislative kneejerks any reason to make getting an effective pain reliever harder.

I'll have to fly in September which means Xanax... and lots of it. Last flight, we had a hard landing at Reagan International. Everyone else was white with fear, and I couldn't care less whether we crashed or not. You gotta love a drug like that.


phoggyjay 1 year, 10 months ago

Stick with cannabis, not prescription pills. Vaporize...


mikekt 1 year, 10 months ago

Maybe this is what is going on in Topeka in our legislature?


tange 1 year, 10 months ago

Ya know, whenever I'm feelin' life doesn't quite measure up... dissatisfied with my physiology, M I L L I O N S of years in the making... the first thing that occurs to me is to pop (or cook and inject) a pill or a patch.


akt2 1 year, 10 months ago

It's pretty easy for physicians to track medication fills these days in Kansas. It's called KTRAC. It will show every medication filled by a patient. The date filled, the date the script was written, what physician wrote it and the quantity filled. If they're doctor shopping or getting narcotic meds from a couple different doctors the proof is right there. No excuses, no exceptions. Patient care is terminated.


verity 1 year, 10 months ago

Interesting and, in a lot of cases, sad stories, but does anybody have any ideas about how to solve the problem of prescription drugs getting on the street or into the wrong hands?

Are there other methods of control for some kinds of pain that we are not exploring?

How much are doctor's responsible for this? I know when I've had some procedure, dental or medical, the doctor/dentist automatically gives me a prescription without asking if I want it. I never have it filled because, for some reason, I rarely feel much pain (not a high tolerance, I don't tolerate pain well, I just don't often have it).

This obviously is a serious problem, both for those who need the medication and for those who become addicts, but there doesn't seem to be any good ideas about how to solve it.


Ron Holzwarth 1 year, 10 months ago

I used to know a person that had a problem with abusing prescription pain killers. He also had a drinking problem. One time, he was less than 5 minutes from death. See my comments following this article for the details of that exciting event:

He had the most excellent job possible for someone with a prescription drug habit. It was his job to collect the medications for deceased patients at a large hospital, flush them, and sign that they had been disposed of.

Yes, they certainly were disposed of, but not quite the way they were supposed to be. He had a fantastic collection, I saw it once. They were all different colors, many dozens of colors, hundreds of pills, and they were actually quite pretty scattered all over the black and white linoleum tile. The picture was completed by his passed out body on the kitchen floor, and his dog gingerly stepping over him to go get a drink of water.

I thought to myself, '(TOS violation), not again! I've got to move out of here!'

That was before the time he almost died. He did something amazing once. There is a extremely powerful painkiller called Fentanyl. It is available in a transdermal patch, to administer a very low dose over a period of time. He used a scissors to cut off one end of the patch, and licked the jell while he was drinking. He lived.

Then, quite a long time after I had moved out, I was told he had moved a long ways away, over 1,000 miles, and was now off the painkillers, didn't handle the disposal or handling of them, and so there wasn't a problem anymore.

The next thing I heard, he had lost his job and license, for swiping pills. Now he is a bartender. I am sure that his present income has necessitated a severe change in his lifestyle.

The Moral Of The Story: Do not trust the fox to guard the hen house.


Leslie Swearingen 1 year, 10 months ago

I thank God I am not in a position where I have to chose between my meds and paying for something else. I am on a fixed income, but, knock on wood, manage to pay the rent and keep the utilities on. True, I can't watch television because I can't afford cable and I buy the discount monthly fare for the bus. Also true that it is easier to be poor as an old person, meaning over sixty-two, than to be young, working a dead end job with a family to take care of, because we do get perks. I would tell everyone in their twenties, please, please start now to exercise and watch what you eat because that will make a huge difference later on. There are conditions that happen to the fittest people, but some illnesses can be prevented. Of course, when I was twenty I didn't listen to advice so here I am. Just look at me and see yourself as me. That should get you moving.


Aileen Dingus 1 year, 10 months ago

I had a molar pulled the other day, and received a scrip for hydrocodone/acetaminophen for whatever pain would occur once the Novocaine wore off. I went to get it filled, and the cost was SIXTY CENTS. I know people who are buying cancer drugs at $1000 a DOSE and I'm getting seriously addictive drugs for pennies.

I think that if medicine is going to SAVE YOUR LIFE it should be affordable. If it's just going to make your mouth stop hurting (or in my case- send you into a spiral of dizziness, nausea and sweating- note to self- opiods = bad) then it should cost more.


MacHeath 1 year, 10 months ago

So yeah, snap, I am being a badger.


MacHeath 1 year, 10 months ago

My mother died of a painful sort of cancer..multiple melanoma. It was a completely hideous ordeal, probably more so for her, than we that had to watch it. It wasn't fast. The last thing was that she broke her breastbone...try that out for pain. I say give them Heroin, if it makes them feel better. Who cares at that point? The folks that have seen this sort of thing know what I am talking about. I would absolutely choke the life out of someone that would even suggest that it was necessary for her to suffer like that. By the way, she had a pain patch, and oxycodone and she still hurt.


Leslie Swearingen 1 year, 10 months ago

Thank you cait for the excellent post. I must have an unusual doctor because when I told him that OTC pain pill were not doing enough he prescribed something that works. He also told me to keep them in my system instead of waiting until the pain is really bad.
Of course I also have the CT scans, MRI's, and x rays to prove their is something physically wrong that is causing the pain. But, I agree with you 100%. I have had people ask how long I will have to take my meds and I never know quite what to say. It is none of your business, comes to mind, but that would be rude.


LevineWilliam 1 year, 10 months ago

as Cheryl replied I'm startled that a single mom able to get paid $4098 in one month on the internet. did you see this site(Click on menu Home more information)


Cait McKnelly 1 year, 10 months ago

“Our society is less tolerant to pain than we used to be,” Sigler said.

This statement made me see red.
The intolerance isn't people being intolerant to pain, it's the intolerance of people like Sigler for people in pain. The US under treats pain to a horrifying degree, all because of a puritanical fear of opioids. I have known people in chronic pain so severe that they committed suicide rather than face another day of it. (One woman who had no bladder and had multiple complications from a car accident literally jumped from the fourth story of a parking garage after visiting her doctor and being turned down for the umpteenth time.) I know another person who landed in the hospital in liver failure from over dosing on acetaminophen because her doctor refused to prescribe pain medication for her. She tried to control her pain as best she could and she almost accidentally killed herself because of it. People in Europe look at the way Americans treat pain and they are horrified at what they perceive as the cruelty and inhumanity of, not just the way the medical community treats it, but the way Americans perceive it (when they aren't the ones feeling it). As for there being "no studies in the use of opioids in the treatment of chronic pain", there are studies out the wazoo. They just aren't American studies and they don't incorporate our peculiar and cruel attitude toward pain. As far as Europeans are concerned, chronic pain is just that, chronic and it will never go away. Given that, who cares if someone becomes addicted to their pain medication? They won't be able to live without it anyway. They are also far more proactive with it, encouraging people to take their pain medication even when they aren't hurting so they can stay that way and stay functional. This is a far more pragmatic, practical and humane way of viewing it.


MacHeath 1 year, 10 months ago

There are those who believe chronic pain does not exist, or that pain should be toughed out. These are people that have never had it, or seen a loved one suffer.


Flap Doodle 1 year, 10 months ago

In bad news for choom gang: "..The British Lung Foundation carried out a survey of 1,000 adults and found a third wrongly believed cannabis did not harm health. And 88% incorrectly thought tobacco cigarettes were more harmful than cannabis ones - when the risk of lung cancer is actually 20 times higher..."


Leslie Swearingen 1 year, 10 months ago

True that. I have documentation to prove that I need pain pills. It seems a bit much for those who are not having pain to judge someone who is having chronic pain.


DRsmith 1 year, 10 months ago

It's too bad these abusers make it a PITA for people who actually need it. Doctors pretty much have to treat everyone like their an addict these days.


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