Prescription drug abuse growing problem in Indiana

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Prescription drugs are playing an increasing role in the drug-related crimes that are filling up Indiana's prisons, prison officials and prosecutors said.

While drugs like cocaine and methamphetamine receive the harshest sentences, the nation's fastest-growing drug problem is prescription drug abuse, according to the Office of National Drug Control Policy.

Clark County Deputy Prosecutor Jake Elder said prescription pills are found during almost every drug case he handles.

"It's almost like a secondary charge. I would say 75 to 80 percent of all cases I handle, whether it be meth or cocaine, also had some sort of" prescription drug, Elder told the News and Tribune of Jeffersonville.

In 2009, the Clark County Prosecutor's Office filed 1,868 felony cases and 446 were drug cases. Of those, 125 involved hydrocodone, 93 involved Xanax and 75 oxycodone. And more cases in the county along the Ohio River involve hydrocodone than any other drug except marijuana.

Indiana lawmakers debated sentencing reform during their recent session and one bill aimed to reduce sentences for non-violent drug offenses. That bill died after running into stiff opposition from county prosecutors.

Anne Terwilliger, the substance abuse coordinator for southern Indiana's Henryville Correctional Facility, said more than 90 percent of the minimum-security prison's inmates are drug addicts.

"I would say everyone here has struggled with addiction at some point in their life," she said.

Terwilliger said an estimated 60 of Henryville's roughly 200 inmates were in treatment for addiction. She wishes more inmates would take advantage of the program, but said inmates have to want the help.

"My philosophy is that a lot of treatment is superficial. There's something underneath," Terwilliger said.

When addicts start revealing their past, she finds that many have a family history of addiction, were sexually abused or have been unable to cope with a loss.

Henryville isn't unique in its large percentage of inmates with drug problems. Across the state Department of Correction, it's estimated that more than 90 percent have substance abuse problems.

The state Department of Correction has recently started placing more emphasis on rehabilitation programs, said Darwin Groves, administrative assistant in charge of programs at Henryville.

Prescription drugs are the most abused drugs, other than marijuana, among youth. Elder said he's heard reports of "pill parties" for juveniles who find medication in their parents' medicine cabinets and swap pills with others.

An Indiana Prevention Resource Center survey found that 3.5 percent of 12th graders and 4.3 percent of 10th graders had abused prescription medication in the past month. The same survey found 5.8 percent of 12th graders and 4.6 percent of 10th graders had abused prescription pain killers.


  • docters and clinics
    its not all doctors but if you know some rx junkies they all go to the same drs most of them dont have real problems thats why in their circles they call them pill doctors and on the other hand when they cant get it prescribed they just go to one of the many methadone clinics
  • Addressing your response
    "A point of clarification - Federal law limits schedule II prescriptions to a one month supply." Yes, I realize that. I just don't agree with the patient having to present physically to get that written refill. I have cancer patients whose budgets are already stretched beyond the breaking point, some choosing between medications, food and needed care. This is just one more expense that could be avoided if doctors weren't being painted into a corner with their licenses on the line. Do they have to make this a requirement? No, but due to the documentation involved, if an audit discovers that the patient wasn't seen in office for their refill, the physician or health care provider better be able to document why and if the why isn't good enough, again, they may be persecuted and prosecuted.

    And the "bad apples" get all of the publicity along with the celebrity ODs. The more numerous stories of those who are helped with these medications don't sell papers or magazines, so they are virtually ignored.
  • Point was not lost
    Lark - I don't think that your point was lost at all. A few "bad apples" make it difficult for those that really need the care.

    A point of clarification - Federal law limits schedule II prescriptions to a one month supply. MDs can't write for more than a month's supply at a time.
    • My point was lost
      The point to my post was the tendency for people and the media, to lump all those who take narcotic pain medications as drug abusers when this is not true. There are many people with a legitimate need and when articles like this appear, it feeds that misconception.

      I live in the northern part of the state and again, doctors of any specialty other than pain management in my area will not prescribe Class II narcotics for longer than a month. If a patient has a condition that warrants these meds, they must see a pain mangement specialist for refills on a monthly basis. This is expensive, not only for the additional doctor's visit, but for the meds as it is typically cheaper to use a mail in RX for a three month supply than to fill the prescription monthly. And, if the patient doesn't physically go to their appointment (unless they are in hospice or have been verified by a physician as bedridden), they do not get their medications. I have seen this with cancer patients and those with painful neurological conditions. This is not effective patient care. It is patient care as dictated by the government, the DEA in particular.

      If you have the time, you may want to read an article written by a pain management specialist addressing this very problem. I cannot link directly to it without my comment being flagged as spam, but go to Google and search for "Prescribing Narcotics: A Doctor's Point of View" by Dr. Mark Borigini. It was written in 2008 but is as timely today as it was then.
      • hmmmm
        Lark--I don't know where you live, but I know at least 3 Primary Care physicians who will prescribe narcotic pain control (with the approval of and knowledge of a Chronic Pain doc) for their regular, long term patients. Obviously this is a variable within the state and within the field. Yes, you are correct, they will only prescribe one month at a time. And while it it certainly easy enough to pull the prescription record of patients, you would be surprised at the number of physicians who do not do it ~ either because they don't know how, don't want to take the time, or maybe they don't care. Once again, another variable. Physicians practice differently, which is why Chronic Pain patients really need the benefit of a Chronic Pain Specialist, who may be more motivated to get them off of narcotics and onto something else (assuming they are candidates for non-narcotic pain meds....certainly not everyone is, for various reasons)
        • This is not the case where I live
          Family doctors and other specialists will not prescribe narcotic pain medications for longer than a month. Anyone else is handed off for pain management, even cancer patients. And if the patient doesn't physically appear at the office, no RX. It is easy enough for a physician to pull a record of any prescriptions filled in the state for any patient to make sure they are not doctor shopping.
          • Really??
            I am also a practicing registered nurse. My husband is a physician. First off, physicians do NOT receive "residual income"..."for every prescription written." Wow. Where have all THOSE checks been all these years? Pretty sure I haven't missed them. Secondly, in the hands of Chronic Pain Specialists is EXACTLY where patients with Chronic Pain need to be. Not all family docs and internists stay up on the latest pain meds/adjuncts/etc. Many Chronic Pain Specialists allow their patients to actually GET the monthly prescription from their local internist/family doc....as long as they aren't ALSO getting prescriptions from the Chronic Pain Specialist. They then check in with the Specialist every 3 months or so. The contract, for the most part, is to ensure that narcotic pain meds are obtained from only ONE source, not multiple sources as is so often the case. Too many people, even those involved in the Chronic Pain system, try to "work" the system to get more meds...either for themselves,family members, or to sell. If one truly has Chronic Pain, then they should be monitored by someone who specializes in it....just like Chronic Lung patients are monitored by Pulmonologists and Cancer patients are monitored by Oncologists.
            • The problem is multi-faceted
              When articles like this are published, it makes me more than a little angry. Why? Because there actually ARE people out there in severe chronic pain with a legitimate need for these drugs. Every article about abuse makes it more difficult for these people to secure the medications they need.

              I am a registered nurse. I see patients on a daily basis whose pain is not being adequately controlled. Doctors are running scared from the DEA as the "war on drugs" is now being fought in your doctors' offices, not on the streets. Doctors have to maintain pristine documentation when prescribing narcotics and even then, innocent practitioners have had their licenses yanked or even wound up in prison for "overprescribing" in the eyes of the DEA when actually, their prescriptions are reasonable when following dosage guidelines. The problem has become so pervasive that many doctors simply will no longer prescribe narcotic pain medications. Patients must see pain management specialists to get their needed meds and in doing so, must sign contracts of agreement, submit to random drug screens and endure the expense of monthly reevaluations. How would you like to truck your suffering loved one to a doctor's office every month when they have no business even getting out of bed?

              I hope the day comes soon when new, effective, non-narcotic pain relievers hit the market, but until that time, we need to take a look at how we view those who need and take narcotics and quit lumping them into the same category as criminals.
              • Doctors and Pharmacutical Companies to blame
                The prescription drug problem is due to greed by the doctors and paharmacutical companies, the doctors recieve residual income from the pharmacutical manufactures for every prescription written. The doctors recognize and capitalize on the addictive nature of some of their patients, especially drug abusers earning themselves repeated office charges up to 4 times a month per addict, while cashing in on the manufactures lump sum residual. It's no different from the street except drug dealer is licensed.

                We need to stop this problem at the source!

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