Putting the lid on drug abuse in U.S.


By Anthony J. Machcinski

The normal image people associate with someone who abuses drugs is the beaten down, ragged, and dirty homeless person in the inner cities. What people fail to realize is that some of the greatest abuse occurs within the safest towns with drugs that many people have in their home.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, about 7 million people abuse prescription drugs in the United States. Over the past 20 years, the number of opioid prescriptions increased from 30 million to 180 million, making these potentially dangerous drugs more available than ever.
Several factors contribute to this trend. One of these, suggested John Bellitti, pharmacist and owner of Hb Pharmacy, is the subjectivity of pain.
“Pain is subjective,” Belitti said. “If you have a problem with your blood pressure, you can measure it. It’s very difficult to judge how much pain a patient has. So being that it’s subjective, you don’t know if the person is saying it because they’re in pain, or whether they just want the drug.”
While scheming patients are partially to blame, much of the blame rests on the unethical doctors who will prescribe such drugs to these patients. It’s the job of pharmacies to verify that the prescription is legitimate.
“We try and verify the prescription,” said Dominick Zinna, pharmacist in charge of Midtown Pharmacy. “We try and know the doctor as well. If it’s a doctor we don’t recognize, we will follow-up with the doctor and get the information from the patient as well. We try to do as much as we can.”
While pharmacists are doing everything they can, the State of New Jersey is trying to help as well.  In 2008, a law was adopted requiring the use of a Prescription Monitoring Program. By September, the program had been implemented by various pharmacies across the state.
According to Bellitti, pharmacists are required to send in a list of every drug, patient, and doctor. This will help to tell if a person is using multiple pharmacies to obtain the prescriptions.
It’s not just the abuse of the drugs this system is looking to stop, but the illegal selling and prescribing of the drugs. According to the Center for Substance Abuse Research, OxyContin – an opiate considered one of the top abused drugs – costs about $4 when prescribed, but on the street, can fetch anywhere from $25 to $40 per pill.
“It’s a moneymaker for a pharmacy and for a doctor’s office to see these people (who often pay cash),” Bellitti explained. “After all, everybody is in business, including doctors. Sometimes, they go onto the darker side just to keep their business afloat.”
While adults are the main source of abuse, children and teenagers can easily become addicted. However, both Bellitti and Zinna agree that the best way to curb child drug abuse is to halt it before it even happens.
“That’s all parenting,” Zinna said. “Kids from good backgrounds even have issues. Talking to them and asking them what they’re doing. This usually starts from peer pressure. I just think good parenting and keeping an eye out and setting limits within reason.”
“The best way to stop your kid is to be in touch and talking to them and monitoring your kids,” Bellitti continued. “If you’re in touch with your kid, you’re going to be a good parent.”
People at home can also do their part to combat drug abuse. According to the Mayo Clinic, people should communicate, listen, set a good example, and strengthen their bonds with friends and loved ones.

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