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Prescription Drug Abuse Back In The Spotlight
Updated March 18, 2014 7:13 AM
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(UNDATED) - The arrest of Jim Irsay brings attention back to something that has been a problem for many people - the abuse of prescription drugs.

At last year's Indiana State Fair and seven months before the arrest of the Colts owner, Attorney General Greg Zoeller joined the state and local health departments in launching the Bitter Pill campaign, an effort to help people fight addictions to drugs prescribed by doctors.

"Since 1999, the state has seen a 400-percent in prescription drug abuse fatalities," said Dr. Joan Duwve, chief medical consultant for the State Health Department and a member of Indiana's Prescription Drug Abuse Task Force.

Irsay faces four felony charges after Carmel Police then found prescription drugs in his car during a traffic stop Sunday night, drugs they say did not match the labels on the bottles.

Multiple drugs are not unusual for the addict.

"What we usually find is that it's not just one drug (used by addicts). There are typically combinations of drugs. There may be an opioid (painkiller) and alcohol or an opioid and something like Xanax. Sometimes there are three drugs," Duwve said.

The danger, even in abusing one drug, "these can all cause respiratory depression, so that when they are taken in combination, people will go to sleep and not wake up."

Prescription drug addiction has been a problem for Irsay in the past, and he also admits to suffering from back pain for many years.

"These drugs are very good drugs to treat pain after surgery, but drugs like vicodin and prescription opioids are not as good at managing chronic pain," Duwve said. "What happens is that with good intentions, primary care doctors will prescribe a little bit more, thinking more is better."

Instead of taking care of the pain, "they cause euphoria. People get this sense of well being. They are still in pain, but life is good."

While they don't always deter people from finding ways to get their drugs, there are laws that attempt to prevent addicts from going to several doctors to get prescriptions. Specifically, there are prescribing rules for doctors using opioids for chronic pain for everyone except those who have a terminal illness.

"They are required to see the patient face to face and get medical records. They are required to check..the history of drugs prescribed to patients in the past. Doctors are also supposed to use screening tools to make sure patients aren't at risk of abuse," Duwve said.



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