“Prescription drugs are causing a larger overdose epidemic than illicit drugs ever have,” according to a recent Ohio Department of Health report. In fact, the number of overdose-related deaths [in this state] skyrocketed more than 370 percent between 1999 and 2010, making it “the leading cause of injury death … surpassing motor vehicle traffic crashes for the first time on record.”
Opioid pain relievers such as Oxycodone/OxyContin, Hydrocodone/Vicodin, Methadone, Fentanyl patches, and Morphine cause nearly three out of four prescription drug overdoses in this country, the report stated. In 2008, opioid abuse resulted in nearly 15,000 deaths, which is equivalent to a plane crash killing 350 people per day for three-and-a-half months.
A year later, prescription painkiller abuse prompted 475,000 visits to the emergency room.
Locally, LifeCare Ambulance responded to 1,962 overdose calls in 2012, per the Morning Journal on August 7, 2013. More specifically:
- Amherst’s number of overdose calls increased from 25 in 2008 to 137 in 2012;
- Lorain’s surged from 827 in 2008 to 1,208 in 2012; and
- Elyria’s rose from 542 in 2008 to 583 in 2012.
Though the Centers for Disease Control has estimated that 25 to 66 percent of Ohioans who die from an overdose took drugs that were prescribed to someone else, some doctors unscrupulously cash in on the popularity of painkillers. Take, for instance, Dr. Corey J. Schmidt, a North Ridgeville dentist who was indicted in 2013 for doling out oxycodone and hydrocodone prescriptions to North Olmsted, Lakewood, and Cleveland residents who weren’t even patients.
A vigilant CVS pharmacist reportedly caught on to Schmidt, who’d already been fired from one office for substance abuse, and turned him in to the prosecutor’s office, but pill mills, or “pain management clinics,” are popping up all over the state. According to the Cuyahoga County Opiate Collaborative, “Scioto County dispensed roughly 35 million oxycodone and hydrocodone pills in 2010,” or 46 pills for each of its 76,000 residents. That same year, neighborhood pharmacies throughout Ohio received 692 million doses of opioids, or 60 doses for everyone in the state.
Clearly, these highly addictive drugs are being over-prescribed, which is why, in 2010, the FDA mandated that pharmaceutical manufacturers change the labels on extended-release opioids to read “pain severe enough to require daily, around-the clock, long-term treatment,” rather than “moderate-to-severe pain.” In October 2013, Ohio changed its own prescribing guidelines.