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Prescription Drug Abuse Epidemic Continues in IL

PHOTO: Leaders in the healthcare field say prescription drug abuse has reached epidemic status in Illinois, in all corners of the state. Photo credit: CDC/Amanda Mills.
PHOTO: Leaders in the healthcare field say prescription drug abuse has reached epidemic status in Illinois, in all corners of the state. Photo credit: CDC/Amanda Mills.
December 9, 2013

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - The epidemic of prescription drug abuse continues in Illinois, with more deaths now linked to prescription pain medications than to illicit street drugs. A new analysis shows that prescription and over-the-counter painkillers are the number-one cause of exposure-related calls to the Illinois Poison Control Center.

According to operations director Carol DesLauriers, opioids affect the brain receptors that are responsible for pain perception, which can make them addictive and result in high rates of misuse and abuse.

"You just have to really respect these medications," she said. "You know, pain medications can useful for patients that really are in pain, but they are really strong medications and they can result in problems."

The analysis, by the Metropolitan Chicago Healthcare Council, makes some recommendations and says it will take intense and coordinated efforts by medical and law enforcement professionals and government agencies to reverse the trend and still meet the needs of patients who legitimately require pain management.

DesLauriers said that while Illinois has done a good job controlling the quantity of opioid prescriptions written and filled in the state, there is still a higher fatality rate here among those who misuse the drugs. She adds there are people in almost every age group and population segment who misuse or abuse opioids, such as Vicodin, Percocet, and Oxycontin.

These may include "people that maybe start taking it legitimately for pain and then become addicted to it or start to abuse their prescription, and it can be those that start taking it recreationally, using someone else's prescription medication," she said.

According to CDC estimates, there are more than 12 million abusers of prescription opioid medications, and more than 2 million people who are addicted to these medications, in the U.S.

The report is at: MCHC.com.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - IL