Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Prescription Drug Abuse Widespread in Las Vegas

I got news for Las Vegas. It is not a local problem AT ALL. More people are addicted and die each year of prescription drug abuse than all of the illegal drugs used in the United States combined.

LAS VEGAS -- Robbers targeted a Las Vegas pharmacy on Monday, getting away with thousands of dollars in prescription medication. Experts say the incident is indicative of an already serious problem in Southern Nevada: prescription drug abuse.

"Prescription drugs are a huge problem in our state, second only to marijuana in terms of substances of abuse," Las Vegas Recovery Center Medical Director Dr. Mel Pohl said. "We're talking mainly about prescription pain killers. Second is anti-anxiety drugs like Valium, and the third is stimulant drugs." Pohl says deaths related to prescription drug abuse have skyrocketed in recent years. "That correlates with the increased number of prescriptions being written and increased abuse of these drugs over time," he said.

Agencies like the Nevada Prescription Drug Task Force are trying to fight the problem. The task force was formed more than 10 years ago. It tracks prescription drug sales through a statewide database. Every physician in Nevada has access to that database, so they can work together to fight the problem. "(A physician) can do a query (to ensure a) patient may or may not be getting that prescription from somewhere else," task force member John Hunt said. "The intent is to try and help these individuals."

Hunt says, despite the state's efforts, the problem of prescription drug abuse is widespread. "I would be more worried about being in an accident and being hit by someone who was on a prescription drug than someone who was drinking alcohol," he said.

"(The) fact of the matter is that these are very addicting drugs. People become habitual and physically dependent on them. Their lives spin out of control," Dr. Pohl said. "The solution is (to) look at your drug use and stop the use. Get some help. Get some professional help."

Experts say most of the abusers are ages 18 to 25. They often get their medication from the medicine cabinets of family members. That is why experts urge people to properly dispose of their medications when they no longer need them.

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