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Archive for the ‘prescription opiate abuse’ Category

Troopers can applicant that ‘borrowed’ prescription drugs

Thursday, September 20th, 2012

The Washington State Patrol’s recruiters are “concerned” that an undisclosed number of applicants have disclosed they’ve borrowed from prescription drugs from friends and family for their own medical problems, the patrol said in a news release Thursday. 

“Concerned,” perhaps, but it should not come as a surprise. Starting in the 1990s, prescription opiate drugs, in particular, began to be prescribed at much higher rates. The many consequences of that have been documented by news media around the country, including in our very own Kitsap Sun. And, as there are just way more of these potent pain-killing drugs out there, I don’t think it comes as a shock to anyone that they’re also being “borrowed” more often, too.

That doesn’t make it right and the state patrol points out that such borrowing is a felony crime in no uncertain terms.

The patrol said an applicant has been disqualified for borrowing prescription drugs. Here’s the full news release:

(Olympia)—Recruiters at the Washington State Patrol are concerned about the number of State Patrol applicants who report using prescription drugs obtained from friends or relatives for otherwise legitimate medical issues.

It’s dangerous to use prescription medicine that’s been prescribed to someone else. Those with aspirations of working in law enforcement need to know it’s also a felony crime.

“These candidates may have taken the drugs for legitimate medical conditions, and might well have been prescribed the same drugs had they gone to a doctor,” said Capt. Jeff DeVere, commander of the Patrol’s Human Resource Division. “Getting them from a friend is an illegal drug transaction, and will likely disqualify you from employment as a State Trooper.”

A coming wave of retirements among troopers means that the Patrol is hiring at an unprecedented rate. Several months ago, the Patrol struggled to find candidates who were in sufficiently good physical condition. After a wave of public education, candidates are showing up ready to do sit-ups, push-ups and to run.

Now, prescription drug use is the latest obstacle to hiring.

“If you roll your ankle playing pickup basketball, or get a migraine during finals week, go to your doctor not your roommate,” DeVere said.

In doing background investigations, the State Patrol looks at the entire person and not just isolated incidents. However, any kind of illegal drug use places a burden on the candidate that is hard to overcome.

The Patrol is not concerned about drugs, of whatever type, that might have been legally prescribed by a doctor. A medical exam that includes disclosure of current medical conditions is a separate part of the hiring process. That exam will determine if the applicant is in good enough health to perform the essential job functions of a trooper.

 


State to begin monitoring prescriptions for pain medication in 2012

Friday, October 14th, 2011

Accidental prescription drug overdose deaths now outnumber those killed each year in car crashes in Washington. As states around the country grapple with the continuing epidemic of surging opiate abuse, our state has finally decided to fund a possible solution: simply track each prescription doled out.

Health care providers and pharmacies who dispense pain medications like oxycodone and hydrocodone will, starting Jan. 1, 2012, input each prescription into a secure database. As it grows, it will begin to reveal each patients’ use — and potential misuse of  the drugs, which can be so effective for pain but also addictive.

The law behind the database was passed in 2007 but its implementation wasn’t funded until now.

The providers can use the information to identify such misuse and recommend chemical dependency treatment, according to the state’s Department of Health. Another feature of the database is the ability to identify dangerous drug interactions.

“Having a patient’s prescription history gives prescribers a more complete view of patient care when they prescribe or dispense controlled substances,” Washington State Secretary of Health Mary Selecky said in a press release. “This new service is another tool for patient care and safety.”

I suppose, like any policy tool, there are pitfalls to its effectiveness. People addicted to opiates might attempt to have someone else get them the drugs, or they could attempt to use fake identification.

But ultimately, it could significantly help identify abusers of prescription drugs and has been successful elsewhere.

I’m curious if anyone will find it an intrusion of people’s privacy. The policy is a similar to a federal database that tracks customer’s purchases of pseudoephedrine, the key ingredient in home-cooked meth. But I’ve not heard much in the way of complaints about that database.

How do you, dear readers, believe it could change the prescription abuse landscape? And do you think it too intrusive?

The law behind the database permits heath care providers, patients, law enforcement to view prescription records. For more information from the state’s Department of Health on the program and the law, click here.


BC’s legal drug injection site will stay that way

Sunday, October 2nd, 2011

If you were against the prospect of a methadone clinic in Bremerton, you’ll likely be incensed by a rather radical approach to drug addiction in British Columbia. At Insite, a clinic in Vancouver’s lower eastside, drug addicts are able to bring in and inject illegal drugs under the supervision of a nurse.

The argument for the clinic is that even if they’re choosing to abuse drugs like heroin, the chance they’ll overdose or hurt themselves while in the presence of medical professionals is far less. A study released recently confirms that point.

And on Friday, proponents of the clinic scored a victory when the Canadian Supreme Court ruled that Insite would be allowed to operate in the face of drug laws because closing it would be a violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. (The Charter is basically the Canadian version of our Bill of Rights, though it was passed in 1982.)

As you may recall, a Seattle non-profit led an effort recently to place a methadone clinic in Bremerton to combat the region’s rising opiate addiction epidemic. But businesses and residents in the area, fearing problems it might bring to the Charlston neighborhood, pushed back and the non-profit abandoned its plans.

What that non-profit does is far different from a free injection site. Methadone, a long-acting opiate, is used as a replacement drug for opiate addicts. It can be effective at quelling the addiction without giving the patient a high.

That said, how do you feel about the idea of so-called “safe injection sites?” Are those Canadians on to something, or are they off their rockers?


The latest drug trends across America

Thursday, July 28th, 2011

In June, I had the chance to attend a conference in Seattle of some of the smartest minds in America when it comes to monitoring drug abuse. While each gave a presentation about cities and areas across the nation, I found particularly interesting just one sheet of paper that they passed around.

Across the top of the page, various drugs — cocaine, heroin, other opiates, meth, marijuana and synthetics — were listed. In each column below, each expert from the cities and areas listed the current trends — up, down, or otherwise — for each drug.

Please take a look at the page. But I’ll also provide a short synopsis of my own interpretation of it, as discussed at the Community Epidemiology Work Group in Seattle June 8-10.

Cocaine: Clearly down across the country. Its high price, even during the recession, has made it rather cost prohibitive for users, various epidemiologists pointed out at the meeting. There were a few exceptions: New York City and “vacationland” Maine, two of the richest areas of the country.

Heroin: Results were mixed but some areas have experienced a surge, including our own, which is denoted with “young adult,” being part of the trend. Readers of our paper will no doubt already know that heroin has experienced a huge resurgence here.

Other opiates: Wow. The country is clearly grappling with prescription pill addiction.

Meth: This one may surprise you. Though so much attention is given to this particularly dirty drug, most areas reported its use is stable or decreasing. So-called “precursor” laws have obviously had an impact in keeping meth’s key ingredient, pseudoephedrine, out of the hands that would cook it themselves. But more complex drug enterprises appear to have made up for that lack of mom-and-pop meth shops.

Marijuana: The results from the group were pretty clear. Marijuana continues to grow in use and abuse, achieving the “high” label amongst many of the epidemiologists present. The growing number of people who believe it should be legalized, or at least recognized as having medical benefits, continues to push the upward trend.

Synthetics: The group either needed more time to investigate or found that synthetics, be it PCP or MDMA, were on the rise.

Notice alcohol, not an illicit drug is not on the list. Yet this drug, above all others, is more abused than any other.

Note: The circling of some notes in the heroin column are mine, as I attended the conference when it was the main topic of conversation. Otherwise, it is each expert’s notes.


On Saturday, dispose of those dust-gathering drugs

Thursday, April 28th, 2011

Those bottles of old medications sitting inside your medicine cabinet aren’t just going nowhere. There’s a good chance that, over time, they’ll fall into the wrong hands — perhaps a thief’s, maybe a snooping neighbor’s, or even your child’s.

But throwing them in the trash isn’t a great alternative, as someone could still get their hands on them. And flushing them down the toilet, it turns out, isn’t good for marine life.

So what to do? Well, this Saturday’s your best bet to get rid of them.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s “Take-Back” program is pretty simple: drop off your old prescription drugs free of charge between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Saturday.You can do so at either the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office’s mall location or at the Port Orchard Police Department in city hall.

Of course, you can always drop off old drugs at the Bainbridge Island Police Department or the Mason County Fire District 2 station should Saturday not work for you.

This is only the DEA’s second-ever drug take back event, clearly back by popular demand:  Last September, Americans turned in over 242,000 pounds of prescription drugs in four hours. In Washington, 4.5 tons of old prescriptions were turned in.

If the Kitsap locations don’t work for you, try searching for other spots here.

For more, here’s the news release from the DEA:

Pharmaceutical drugs can be as dangerous as street drugs.  The majority of teenagers get pharmaceuticals from family and friends – and the home medicine cabinet.  The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and its community partners throughout Washington will provide to the public a safe, free and anonymous way to rid their homes of potentially dangerous prescription drugs on Saturday, April 30, from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

This is the second DEA led nation-wide prescription drug “Take-Back” program that seeks to prevent increased pill abuse and theft.  Last September, Americans turned in over 242,000 pounds – 121 tons- of prescription drugs at nearly 4100 sites operated by more than 3,000 of the DEA’s state and local law enforcement partners. In less than four hours, Washington residents turned in nearly 4.5 tons of medicine.

This initiative addresses a vital public safety and public health issue. Medicines that languish in home cabinets are highly susceptible to diversion, misuse, and abuse. Rates of prescription drug abuse in the U.S. are alarmingly high–more Americans currently abuse prescription drugs than the number of those using cocaine, hallucinogens, and heroin combined, according to the 2009 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

“Taking the time to clean out your medicine cabinet can be a matter of life and death,” said DEA Acting Special Agent in Charge Mark Thomas.  “The Prescription Drug Take Back program provides a safe way to dispose of unused and expired medication that can lead to accidental poisoning, overdose and abuse.  DEA and its partners are committed to keeping our communities safe.”

Collection sites in every local community can be found by going to www.dea.gov and clicking on the “Got Drugs?” banner at the top of the home page, which connects to a database that the public can search by zip code, city or county.  Additionally, the public can call 1-800-882-9539.


The Good News and the Bad News About Prescription ‘Take Back’

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

I have some good news and bad news about the government’s efforts to take back prescription drugs.

First, the bad news: while the national Prescription Drug Take Back Day was declared, in many communities, a success, the same can’t be said for Kitsap. We weren’t able to find any locations in Kitsap County that was taking back medications last Saturday. And following a scary incident at Mountain View Middle School last week, drop locations surely seem appropriate here.

Now, the good news: on Tuesday, the Bainbridge Island Police Department announced it would be establish a permanent take-back program, so residents can bring their unused prescription drugs in anytime, Monday through Friday, to the police station near the ferry terminal.

Here’s the word from Bainbridge Police Chief Jon Fehlman:

“Medicines save lives and treat illnesses,” he said in a press release. “But, expired or left-over drugs need to be handled safely and disposed of properly to prevent harm to people and our environment. Storing unneeded drugs increases the risk of accidental poisonings and drug abuse. Medications that are flushed into septic systems or wastewater treatment facilities can end up in surface or ground waters, potentially impacting aquatic organisms. Disposal of medications in the trash is not secure, especially for narcotics like OxyContin, and does not guarantee that medications won’t get into the environment.”

“Community demand for a safe and secure way to dispose of medicines is high,” he added. “This service gives citizens a way to dispose of legally prescribed controlled substances like OxyContin and Ritalin safely and securely.”

To my knowledge, they are the first police agency in the county to take on the program. Call the Bainbridge Police Department at (360) 842-5211 for more information.


Inslee: Safe Disposal Needed in Wake of Bremerton Pill Taking Students

Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010

Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Bainbridge Island, weighed in today following an incident Tuesday at Mountain View Middle School in which nine students were taken to the hospital for taking prescription pills.

“This week, nine middle school students in Bremerton were hospitalized after popping prescription pills some of the students brought from home,” Inslee said in a release. “Our communities need all the options available to them to combat this problem.”

The timing of the incident coincides with the passage of the Safe Drug Disposal Act by the U.S. House of Representatives, a bill aimed at allowing for prescription pill disposal sites without police involvement — which is currently illegal under federal law.

Inslee is a sponsor of the bill.

Unused prescription pills can get into the water supply and also fall into nefarious hands to be sold or abused. The state legislature has even taken aim with some proposed laws that failed to pass this past session.
Such drug overdoses recently surpassed car crashes as the no. 1 cause of death in Washington.
Also coincidentally, Saturday is National “Take-Back” day. Drop sites around the country will be available for anyone who wishes to turn in unused prescription drugs.

This is an alarm our newspaper first sounded in 2008 in a project called “A Bitter Pill.”

Here’s the full press release from Inslee’s office:

“This afternoon, the House of Representatives passed Rep. Jay Inslee’s (WA-01) Safe Drug Disposal Act, H.R. 5809, by unanimous consent.  This important bipartisan legislation will break down barriers preventing communities from starting comprehensive and all inclusive drug take-back programs in accordance with Drug Enforcement Agency guidelines.  Drug take-back programs provide communities with a safe, legal option for disposing unwanted or unneeded prescription medication.

“Passing the Safe Drug Disposal Act is a big win for Washington families,” said Rep. Inslee.  “Prescription drug abuse is a growing plague in our communities.  This week, nine middle school students in Bremerton were hospitalized after popping prescription pills some of the students brought from home.  Our communities need all the options available to them to combat this problem.  The Safe Drug Disposal Act will give them a common sense option to easily and safely get rid of leftover prescription medication.”

Prescription drug abuse is a growing problem in Washington state and around the country.  Between 1999 and 2006, the number of fatal poisonings involving prescription drugs more than tripled across the United States.  Prescription drug overdoses have now surpassed car accidents as the leading cause of accidental deaths in Washington state.  Three in five teens say prescription pain relievers are easy to get from parents’ medicine cabinets and over half of prescription drug abusers get the medicines from a friend or relative.

“Drug overdoses are now the #1 cause of accidental death in Washington State.
In many areas, including Snohomish County, prescription drugs are involved in a majority of overdoses,” said John Gahagan, Vice-Chair of the Science and Management of Addictions (SAMA) Foundation. Mr. Gahagan’s son, Sean, died of a prescription drug overdose. “Whether left unused in medicine cabinets, tossed in the garbage or flushed down the toilet, these drugs represent a danger to the health of our youth and the health of our environment.   Rep. Inslee’s bill is a critical step in support of efforts to ensure that unneeded controlled substances are securely collected from homes and disposed of safely.”

The Safe Drug Disposal Act would allow local agencies and organizations to set-up and run safe drug disposal efforts, like drop-off boxes and mail-in programs, in accordance with future DEA regulations.  Groups, authorized by the Attorney General would be able to accept controlled substances for the purpose of disposal.  The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) would be able to issue rules regarding drug take back programs. The bill also calls for a new public awareness campaign to educate citizens about the dangers of prescription drugs.

Until now, there has been no safe way for consumers to dispose of unwanted prescription drugs.  Under current law, consumers are prohibited from giving unneeded, unused or expired drugs to anyone besides law enforcement.

Rep. Inslee worked with many local, regional and national organizations to craft the language of the Safe Drug Disposal Act.  In Washington state, local agencies and community groups like Group Health and Bartell Drugs have tackled this problem head-on and developed successful pilot safe drug disposal programs.  Bartell Drugs provided the first take-back locations in Washington’s pioneering Unwanted Medicine Return program and continues to expand locations at its stores in King , Pierce and Snohomish counties.

“Bartell’s understands the need for the safe and environmentally sound disposal of prescription drugs,” said George D. Bartell, Chairman and CEO of family-owned, Seattle-based Bartell Drugs. “The Safe Drug Disposal Act will play an important role in safeguarding our environment, reducing abuse and saving lives.  We heartily applaud Representative Inslee’s efforts behind this bill.”


Prescription Monitoring: We Have the Law, But Not the Money

Saturday, February 27th, 2010

“Doctor shopping,” has become a common practice among prescription drug addicts looking to get their next fix. The premise is simple: One doctor won’t write a prescription for oxycodone? Just try the next one.

Most states, including Washington, have decided the way to combat such a tactic is to put them on the books — create a system that tracks  prescriptions, who they go to, and how many pills go with them.

Opiate-based medications like OxyContin can work wonders for pain. But they can also be abused and have nasty consequences — severe addiction and even death. So establishing a program to keep an eye on frequent users was what the Legislature had in mind in trying to curb such drug use.

The bottom line: we have the law here, but the legislature didn’t fund it, according to Lisa Salmi of the state’s Department of Health.

Salmi says the Legislature passed a bill that created the program in 2007. They gave it $683,000, which hired a program manager. But the Legislature declined to fund it further, Salmi said, and the program maanger was laid off, the program stalled.

She said the program would cost $605,500 to implement, and then $562,000 a year to run.

Monitoring programs have taken off around the country, she said. Forty states either have legislation pending or passed. Thirty-three of them have programs up and running.

The Department of Health has set up a Web site that talks about prescription drug abuse, which you can view here.


Heroin Smacks Vashon Island

Tuesday, May 26th, 2009

blacktar

Someone’s pushing heroin on bucolic Vashon Island, the editor the Vashon Beachcomber said in a recent piece. Such a statement would not be unusual in Kitsap County, where the drug comes and goes with ease along several major thoroughfares. But when you’re a 10,000-some community where the outside world is only accessible by boat, even a little black tar heroin makes its mark.

Editor Leslie Brown interviewed a local drug counselor who confirmed his patients are hooked on smack, and someone’s bringing it on Vashon’s shores. The King County Sheriff’s sergeant assigned to the island is also aware of its presence.

The most important part of the story comes from the personal account given by a heroin addict’s mother. And get this: her son first tried oxycodone and became hooked on that. (Regular readers of this blog won’t be surprised.)

(more…)


The New Drug Fad, Same as the Old Drug Fad

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

picture-22

What’s the fastest growing drug problem in America? Here are some clues to help you figure it out:

  • It’s popular with teens: about 19 percent of them have tried it.
  • In six years, from 2000 to 2006, the number of Americans using it rose 80 percent from 3.8 million abusers to 7 million (more than the number of Americans abusing cocaine, heroin, hallucinogens, and inhalants combined).
  • Scarily, it now causes more drug overdose deaths than cocaine and heroin combined.

Read on to find the answer — and a startling bust conducted by the federal DEA. Oh, and to find out more than you ever wanted to know about this drug, check out our blog’s category on the subject here.

(more…)


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