Many parents worry their children will experiment with alcohol or marijuana or other drugs. Those are valid concerns, yet we need to alert parents of a parallel drug problem that also has taken root in Indiana and plagues Hoosier families: abuse of drugs that are legal with a prescription.
Unfortunately, our state is caught up in a national epidemic of people diverting prescription drugs, especially opioid painkillers, abusing them and overdosing, sometimes fatally. By some estimates, one person dies of a prescription drug overdose somewhere in the United States on average every 25 minutes.
The causes are complex. Medical science to its great credit has developed powerful new painkillers that temporarily relieve the suffering of cancer patients and those recovering from surgery. Opioid painkillers by their chemical composition can be addictive or cause physical dependence. Due to risk of patient addiction and potentially dangerous side effects, most physicians are diligent about not prescribing OxyContin or other powerful painkillers unless truly necessary to relieve chronic or intense pain.
But the physician who writes the prescription and pharmacist who dispenses it can’t control what happens when the patient stashes the drug bottle in the family medicine cabinet.