The death of Actor Philip Seymour Hoffman in New York points to a possible link between heroin use and prescription drug abuse. Hoffman’s cause of death has not been confirmed but authorities say both heroin and prescription painkillers were found with his body.
The problem of prescription drug abuse is not going away in New York. Doctor Howard Mell is finding teens as young as 12 experimenting with things they grab right from home.
“We’ve had many reports of them going through medicine cabinets or even these events they refer to as ‘pharm parties’, where they collect various medications from their households and pour them into a bowl and take a handful; see what it’ll do. I have dealt with several overdose cases from those events.”
He’s with the American College of Emergency Physicians which is trying to educate the public and physicians about prescription drug abuse.
STATE EFFORTS TO COMBAT PROBLEM
New York passed a law last year called I-STOP…the internet system for tracking over-prescribing. It tracks all painkillers and other medications, so doctors and pharmacies can see if the same patient recently got the same drug. That helps prevent so-called ‘doctor shopping’, going to several different doctors to get prescriptions to sell or abuse. Mell says the problem can get out of hand, if people don’t take it seriously.
“And you have to remember, nobody starts out planning to be an addict. It s an experiment today, that leads to a dependence, that leads to a full-blown addiction. Really, the best way to stop it is before it starts.”
Howard suggests people on prescription drugs: keep them with you, or lock them up. For old or unused medications: get rid of them at a pharmacy. More than 1600 cases of prescription drug abuse were reported in Onondaga County in 2011 – with most getting the drugs at home.