Pills a potent problem

first_img6.13: Percentage of Washington residents who used pain relievers for nonmedical purposes in 2008 (Ninth highest in the country).55: Percentage of Americans who obtained pain relievers for nonmedical use from a friend or family member for free.1.4: Percentage of 18-to-25-year-old Americans who are dependent on pain relievers.2,500: The number of U.S. teenagers every day who use prescription drugs to get high for the first time.2006: Since then, deaths in Washington from unintentional drug overdoses have surpassed auto deaths.12.3: Percentage of Washington deaths in 2007 due to unintentional drug overdose.Sources: National Survey on Drug Use and Health (2010 survey); Washington State Department of Health; Centers for Disease Control and PreventionThe methamphetamine epidemic that plagued Clark County in the past decade has taken a backseat to another public health crisis: prescription drug abuse.The number of people seeking care at Lifeline Connections, Clark County’s largest treatment center, for opiate addiction has surpassed methamphetamine and most other drugs, making it second only to alcohol. In the 2011 fiscal year, more than 17 percent of people who sought treatment at Lifeline Connections used opiates or synthetics, including oxycodone and hydrocodone, as either their primary, secondary or tertiary drug of choice. More than 7 percent identified the drugs as their primary choice, compared with nearly 36 percent who primarily used alcohol.Physicians acknowledge the issue. Law enforcement recognizes the trend. But nobody seems sure how to rein in prescription drug abuse.“There’s a tear in the fabric of our community somewhere, and I’m looking for it,” said Sgt. Shane Gardner with the Clark County Sheriff’s Office.But the problem isn’t unique to Clark County.Last year, 6 percent of the American population used prescription pain relievers, tranquilizers, stimulants or sedatives for nonmedical purposes. That’s 16 million people misusing prescription drugs — more than four times the number a decade ago, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.last_img read more