Prescription drug abuse
TERRY AHNER/TIMES NEWS Marcia Resch, standing, director of Emergency Services at Blue Mountain Health System, and Kelly Auer, a registered nurse at Palmerton Hospital.
Prescription drug abuse is on the rise in the Times News coverage area.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, abusing some prescription drugs can lead to addictions to things such as narcotic painkillers, sedatives, tranquilizers and stimulants.
Common drugs that cause dependencies are Vicodin, Percocet, OxyContin and codeine.
Because every medicine has some risk of side effects, doctors take that into account when prescribing medicines.
People who abuse prescription drugs may not understand the risks, as the medicines may not be safe for them, especially at higher doses or when taken with other medicines.
Jamie Drake, treatment program manager at Carbon Monroe Pike Drug and Alcohol Commission Inc. of Lehighton, said 159 clients with opiates as their drug of choice were admitted to the facility last fiscal year.
That represented 46 percent of the admissions into outpatient treatment at the facility, Drake said, adding that many of those clients also used heroin.
Drake said the highest age range for those admissions is between 25-34, but added they are also seeing people in the 35-50 age range becoming addicted after being on pain medications for a medical injury or problem.
"In many cases, clients may start out with opiate pain medications and switch back and forth with heroin because the cost of buying pills on the street is much more than a bag of heroin," Drake said. "What happens is that as tolerance builds, the costs to use daily and avoid withdrawal symptoms increases, and this is where clients become involved with the law to support their addiction."
Drake added, "They do this by stealing, pawning items, and, in some cases, forging prescriptions."
Ronald Kokinda, chief probation officer for Carbon County, said 1,573 people are currently being supervised by his office staff. Out of those, 1,101 have drug and alcohol issues/addiction problems, or about 70 percent of the total.
It's a problem that's becoming more and more difficult to deal with, according to Marsha Resch, director of Emergency Services at Blue Mountain Health System.
"Unfortunately, with the increased drug usage in the area, we are finding that patients are coming into the emergency departments seeking narcotic medication inappropriately," Resch said. "CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services), and the PA Department of Health, are cracking down on prescription drug abuse. We are able to call the patient's primary care physician or pharmacies to confirm the inappropriate use of these drugs.
"There are many patients that have recently been seen and are already taking narcotics prescribed by their primary care physicians, and they come into the ER to try to get additional prescriptions," Resch said.
"These patients are using multiple physicians and pharmacies to obtain these drugs," she said. "This makes it difficult to treat these patients."
Drake said treatment is available for people who become addicted.
She said people may contact the Carbon-Monroe-Pike Drug & Alcohol Commission's Referral Center at 866-824-3578.
Those who are treated will be given a screening, followed by an assessment that will be completed to determine the appropriate level of care needed.
As the Single County Authority, the agency provides funding for the uninsured client, complete with the necessary assessments for the Medical Assistance clients, and makes referrals to inpatient detox, rehab or outpatient levels of care.
The agency also has an in-house suboxone program, in which they contract with a physician to provide medication checks and begin clients on the medication. Last year, 58 unique clients were in this program.