Colorado 2nd in nation for pain pill abuse

By: Brian Shlonsky Email
By: Brian Shlonsky Email

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO) -- They can be some of the most highly addictive drugs on the market and some of the most dangerous, and you don't even have to look past your medicine cabinet to find them.

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, pain pills are now a big problem in Colorado. Our state has the second highest rate of prescription painkiller abuse in the country, second only to Oregon.

The pills are everywhere, prescribed by doctors to patients who are in intense pain.

"I broke my back in 2005 from a hit and run drunk driver, and they put me on a high dose of Vicodin," said Eddie Stewart, who knows first- hand how fast painkiller use can turn to painkiller abuse.

"I got to the point where I had to eat more than required, so I was doubling the doses, and I did that for about a year, and they were really addictive," he said.

Stewart isn't alone. According to a new federal survey, six percent of Colorado residents say they used prescription pain pills for non- medical reasons during 2010 and 2011. That rate jumps to 14 percent among 18 to 25 year olds.

"Prescription drug abuse across the country is the number one problem, and we certainly experience that here in Mesa County," Heather Benjamin with the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office said. "The DEA does a drug take-back, so we provide locations for people to drop off their unused or unwanted prescription drugs."

But because they're highly addictive, many people don't stop until they find their fix.

"It was bad enough when they told me I couldn't have any more. It was like a major withdrawal, I mean it was bad-- real bad," said Stewart, who has a warning for people who may think pills are safer because they come from a doctor.

"I mean you do too much of it, you can OD on it just like you can any other kind of bad drug."

According to the National Drug Intelligence Center, misuse of prescription drugs is second only to marijuana as the nation's most prevalent illicit drug problem, with 22 million people using prescription drugs recreationally since 2002.

Local law enforcement and the DEA have drug take-backs typically twice a year, a time for you to safely get rid of your unwanted prescriptions.


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