Authorities Say Prescription Drug Abuse Is Growing Problem - KTEN.com - No One Gets You Closer

Authorities Say Prescription Drug Abuse Is Growing Problem in Oklahoma

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ARDMORE, OK -- It's being called an epidemic by some healthcare authorities.      Oklahoma state health officials are concerned about the growing problem with prescription drug abuse.

State health directors convened at the Southern Oklahoma Technology Center to discuss what they describe as a prescription drug abuse epidemic.

"Prescription drug abuse in Oklahoma is a silent cancer," said Darrell Weaver, director of the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics. "It's really sneaking up on us."

"From 2007 to 2012, prescription drugs claimed the lives of nearly 3,000 Oklahomans," said Avy Redus, program coordinator with the Oklahoma State Health Department.

During that same time span, Redus says 83 percent of unintentional poisoning deaths were caused by prescription drugs in Carter County.

Weaver says a bill is currently going through legislation that would require doctors to view the Prescription Monitoring Program before prescribing controlled drugs.

"As a pharmacist I would love it if I knew that every controlled prescription had been run through the PMP first," said Paul Reed, pharmacist at Reed Family Pharmacy.

But the pharmacist says if doctors are required to check the program for every patient, it could prevent them for providing care to others.

"We've got to be careful that we just don't gum up the work so badly that nothing happens," said Reed.

Another problem that's contributed to abuse is disposal.

Weaver says prescription take back boxes first appeared about three years ago, and have already made a big impact.

"Remarkably we've taken over 25 tons of unused, unwanted prescriptions out of the cabinets of Oklahomans," said Weaver.

The Bureau of Narcotics director says to be vigilant when prescription drugs are in your home and should be stored away properly.

"Find some type of lockbox, you can find them cheap," said Weaver. "Make sure they're secure, make sure you keep a count of your pills."

"Just be aware," said Weaver. "Oklahomans need to be aware there's a value and a harm to associated with prescription drugs."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2001 Oklahoma had the ninth highest rate of deaths involving prescription painkillers.

Texas was rated 42nd.