Florida’s “Pill Mills” are back in the news. The October 25th edition of USA Today reported that federal agents had arrested a man with 6,000 oxycodone pills – a prescription pain reliever – in a Stamford, Connecticut hotel room back in April.
The man told DEA agents that he traveled to Florida several times a week to take advantage of the state’s lax laws governing the distribution of pain pills, where his suppliers would send people into pain clinics with cash and medical cards to fake illnesses and purchase the pills. Pills that would cost $4 to $6 in a Florida pharmacy would then be sold on the streets of Connecticut to people addicted to prescription drugs for $30 a piece.
And, it’s not just drug dealers that are traveling to states where it’s easy to get pain and anti-depressant medication. The search for potent prescription drugs by addicts has spawned a dangerous new industry known as “Drug Tourism” with Florida police saying that they have found a number of “drug tourists” dead of an overdose in hotels and rental cars.
Death by accidental overdose is no new phenomena in America. The list of celebrities who have died from prescription drugs runs the gamut from Marilyn Monroe to Jimi Hendrix to Elvis to Anna Nicole Smith to the Joker – Keith Ledger.
According to the CDC, narcotic pain relievers and anti-depressants are responsible for more overdose deaths than cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine. In 2009, the number of deaths involving prescription drugs was four times that of street drugs.
A study from the University of Colorado – Denver has also found a substantial increase in U.S. death rates due to drug overdoses. This trend was present in all demographic groups considered but was particularly acute among white Americans, who were nine times more likely to die from an accidental drug overdose than they were in the late 1960’s.
The CDC calls the problem an epidemic and the latest statistics from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health seems to support that contention. In 2009, 16 million Americans age 12 and older had taken a prescription pain reliever, tranquilizer, stimulant or sedative for nonmedical purposes at least once in the prior year.
The truly scary stats come from the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, which reports that 1 in 5 adolescents between the ages of 12 to 17 admits to taking a prescription painkiller for a non-medical reason in the past year. One in 10 has taken a prescription stimulant like Ritalin for recreational reasons.
The ease of getting prescription drugs has spawned a relatively new social phenomena among America’s youth known as Pharming Parties, where adolescents get together to barter for their favorite prescription drugs, then pop pills and wash them down with alcohol to get high. While the use of “hard” illicit drugs among teenagers has declined in recent years, the abuse of narcotic painkillers, depressants and stimulants has skyrocketed – Oxycontin, Ritalin, Vicodin, Valium, Xanax – you name it – the kids have access to it.
Frighteningly, nearly half of all teens surveyed believe that using prescription drugs to get high is significantly safer than using street drugs, one-third of adolescents think painkillers are not addictive and 20-percent of teens report being offered a prescription pain killer to get high. Generation Rx has arrived.
Tune in next week for the skinny on the signs and symptoms of prescription drug abuse and the 9 pain medication mistakes you never want to make.
Cord Prettyman is a certified Master Personal Trainer and owner of Absolute Workout Fitness and Post-Re-hab Studio in Woodland Park. He can be reached at 687-7437 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.