Our View: Pain pills a gateway drug

Nov 21 2013 - 3:53pm

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Street drugs
Street drugs

The news that pain pill addicts are turning to heroin as an alternative to Oxycontin, Percocet, Lortab, etc., because it is cheaper to obtain that illegal drug underscores that prescription pain pills are the real "gateway" drugs into serious drug use, and the criminal consequences, as well as ruined lives, that accompanies drug abuse. It's not marijuana that leads to bigger drugs, it's the pain pill in the family medicine cabinet.

Prescription pain pills are toxic to our society. They should be used only in the rarest of situations. Unfortunately, pain pills are sometimes prescribed too liberally by doctors. It is a tragic situation when a person gets hooked on pain pills because they were prescribed, and then enters the criminal world of stealing pain pills from medicine cabinets, forging prescriptions and doctor-shopping to get the prescription meds.

In fact, as Sgt. Troy Burnett, of the Weber-Morgan Narcotics Strike Force, notes, it's far less risky for these graduated-to-heroin users to get heroin than pain pills. For heroin, they can get a balloon of the illegal drug -- the equivalent of several pain pills -- for $10, usually from dealers at parks. On the street, a prescription pain pill costs $20 to $30 a pill, adds Burnett.

Utah has a very high rate of prescription drug abuse. This is an emergency, not just in Utah but nationally, that must be addressed. It needs to start with doctors; they must not provide pain meds when a prescription pill is not needed. If that means the patient endures a little more pain, it's worth it. Creating long-term pain pill addicts who live only to get a fix is a tragedy that needs to be combated and reduced.

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