CDC: Prescription drug epidemic worsens, Hoosiers impacted

A recent report from the CDC shows prescription drugs, specifically painkillers, are responsible for more deaths annually than some street drugs combined. They are now calling the nationwide problem an epidemic.


Overdoses from prescription painkillers are skyrocketing across the U.S., according to the CDC, and Hoosiers have not escaped what health officials are calling a public health epidemic.

"The disease was bigger than Bryan. In the end, he got caught up, the prescription pills, and I think he thought these are from a doctor, they're okay," said Kristy Nelson, the Indianapolis mother of a 19-year-old who died from a prescription pill overdose.

She wears the letter 'B' around her neck as she holds onto her son's memory. He was a straight 'A' student at Ivy Tech, loved golf and had plans to go into law enforcement.

At the age of 19, after a relapse, Bryan overdosed as he slept. It was the night of Nelson's birthday in 2009. She said a coroner told her his heart likely stopped an hour after she told her son goodnight.

Small amounts of Xanax, Klonopin and Vicodin were found in his system.

"He really wanted to stop. He said mom, 'I want to stop,' and I believe he did," said Nelson.

"I think it's an epidemic, and it has increased dramatically over the last 10 to 15 years," said Dr. Timothy Kelly, Medical Director at the Fairbanks Treatment Center in Indianapolis.

Kelly said people who have fallen victim to prescription drug abuse occupy most of his day, and the numbers are in no way dwindling.

He listed the types of people who walk in his door: "Health care professionals, homeless people, people with college degrees, good jobs, housewives, kids, and older people."

In a recent report, the CDC found a fourfold increase in deaths from prescription painkillers over the past decade.

"Forty people die in America today because of prescription painkillers. It's definitely what we face among others," said Dennis Wichern, the Assistant Special Agent in Charge of Indiana's DEA Office.

He said a handful of investigators only work prescription pill cases.

"We have doctor shoppers, addicts going doctor to doctor, we have a few bad doctors supplying a lot of drug addicts, and we get a lot of kids getting it from their parents' medicine cabinets," said Wichern.

He said, while this epidemic is tough to tackle, the tools are there to catch and punish the offenders.

Wichern also pointed to the fairly new INSPECT program that tracks prescriptions. But, addicts keep walking into the Fairbanks Treatment Center and rehab facilities across Indiana.

Nelson's son had looked for help, but like countless other people, he could not shake the addiction.

"It's heartbreaking. It really is. It's something that doesn't have to happen, and yet it is. It's an epidemic. It's an epidemc that we can't seem to get ahead of or stop," she said.

Another effort underway to make sure prescription medications do not end up in the wrong hands is a nationwide drug takeback program. It gives Hoosiers the opportunity to drop off old prescriptions at chosen locations no questions asked.

During the last takeback, 6.5 tons of drugs were collected statewide. The next takeback will likely happen in April.

The Indiana Poison Center said while their overall calls peaked in 2005, the cases for prescription drugs like oxycodone continue to increase.





Look for this special section in your
Baltimore Sun newspaper on Dec. 29, 2013.
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • Google Plus
  • RSS Feeds
  • Mobile Alerts and Apps