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Prescription Drug Abuse Escalates in Colorado and Throughout the West

Doctors have known for some time that prescription drug abuse in Colorado and other parts of the western United States is getting worse. Law enforcement officials, however, have been running a little behind the eight ball, so to speak. They’ve been putting their primary focus on other illegal drug activity while prescription pain killer abuse has escalated out of control.

In Colorado, for example, the primary concern has been battling methamphetamine addiction, and it’s true that meth poses serious health hazards for its victims. However, officials have failed to recognize the other big problem, that prescription pain killers that are being produced by the so-called “pill mills” flourishing in California and Nevada, are making it easier for people to obtain them without a prescription.

People are easily susceptible to pain medication addiction because of the way it works on the brain. Normally, when you experience pain or discomfort, the brain sends out endorphins as its natural way of providing the body a level of relief. If you go to the doctor, however, and ask for a prescription for pain pills, the brain responds by manufacturing more and more receptors for that type of drug. It then decreases the amount of endorphins that it produces because it’s gaining relief from the medication. Opioids, including pain killers, actually stimulate a rush of euphoria when taken. It’s doubly intoxicating because this all happens in the part of the brain that helps us to set priorities in our lives. But over repeated use, the nerve cells in the brain begin to deteriorate, and the person cannot feel pleasure or relief unless he is taking the medication.

Many people who become addicted to pain killers experience a haphazard descent into addiction. It’s not that they set out to use drugs illegally, hanging out with shady characters from the underworld or chasing after bongs like the comical characters in the old Cheech and Chong movies. They begin by taking pain killers to help them while they recover from an injury, and then they find that it’s difficult to stop taking the medication.

Officials fighting prescription drug abuse in Colorado, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, and other states need to follow the example of legislators in Florida. When legislators joined forces with the state attorney general to clamp down on pill mills and also to enforce use of the state’s database for monitoring prescription drugs, the state saw an actual decrease in the number of prescription-drug-related deaths for the first time in over ten years.

Polls show that people who oppose the use of prescription drug use databases argue that there are no funds to support such a database. Some physicians and pharmacists don’t want to be bothered with compliance issues.

Nobody can argue that fighting drugs like methamphetamine (meth) isn’t a good cause, but Colorado lawmakers really need to turn their attention to prescription drug abuse. A whopping 6 percent of people are abusing pain killers in that state, putting it in second place right behind Oregon. Arizona ranks sixth, with 5.66 percent of its population abusing pain killers, and New Mexico holds tenth place, with 5.45 percent admitting to non-medical use of prescription pain killers.  The statistics for these figures included people as young as age 12—a sobering reality.

Recovery from prescription drug abuse is so difficult because it involves withdrawal from the medication and also pain management therapy and behavior modification to help the person deal with his pain—the reason why he began using the drugs in the first place. It’s best to contact professionals at a drug rehab center to get the best treatment for this kind of addiction, who are best equipped to apply this two-pronged approach.   For more information on recovery from prescription pain medication addiction contact Vista Taos Renewal Center at 1.800.245.8267.

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