Good drugs doing bad in wrong hands
Palladium-Item (Indiana), October 12, 2003
Good drugs are doing horrible things to good people. Our friends and neighbors - as well as public personalities many people admire - are being victimized by prescription drugs. Within a 30-day span in August and September, three Richmond residents died from overdoses of legal drugs that were used in illicit ways. Police are investigating a fourth death that happened last week.
They are dead because a drug dealer, not a health care team, handed them out.
Last week, radio talk show celebrity Rush Limbaugh admitted he had become addicted to OxyContin. It's one of the most powerful painkillers and is highly addictive. As he goes for a cure, he carries our best wishes. As much as 30 percent of the criminal drug problem in America involves the misuse of drugs that are legal. It's not limited to people from any particular group. It is such a major problem it has it has its own name -- drug diversion.
Part of the reason diversion is deadly is because these drugs are dispensed without the necessary precautions. Doctors and pharmacists involved in the legitimate business of prescribing drugs for ailments and filling those prescriptions usually warn patients of possible side effects. If a drug is going to react with alcohol, they tell the patient not to drink and take the medicine. But drugs that are illegally obtained come with no warning - or if they do, no one reads the it - and at least one of the deaths in Richmond occurred when the victim took a couple of drinks of alcohol and the drug. By itself, neither would have been fatal but combined, death resulted.
Sometimes health care professionals are involved. Many have easy access to prescription drugs and a few steal drugs and sell them to people who've become addicted. Sometimes doctors over-prescribe medication and the extra pills are sold on the street. There's a ready and profitable market. Even people who don't have a drug problem can innocently become part of someone else's problem. Visitors to your home could ask to use your bathroom. While there, they could go through the medicine cabinet and make off with your pills.
Solutions aren't easy because prescription medication is so common. One is increased detection by law enforcement agencies and prosecution of the drug dealers. Richmond Police have reassigned a trained officer to the Wayne County Drug Task Force. They're trying to staunch the flow of diverted drugs. And another answer is for everyone to do his or her part. If a medical professional gives you or a relative a prescription for 20 pills when you think one or two would be enough, ask for a reduced prescription or alert police. If a relative or friend seems addicted to medication, ask about it and, if needed, try to help find expert help for them.
If you use prescribed drugs, know what they can do. And keep them locked away securely. If you get a prescription, don't lose it. And if you or a relative or friend has a personal problem with prescription drugs, find help.
Most people don't have the celebrity of a Limbaugh, who was embarrassed when news of his illicit habit surfaced. But anyone afflicted by drug use can do as he did: admit his problem and ask for help. To wait without seeking help is to invite death.