Colorado ranks 2nd in nation for prescription painkiller abuse

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DENVER -- They go by names like Oxycontin and Percocet,  powerful prescription pain killers that are highly addictive and extremely dangerous when abused.

State officials say a quarter of a million people in the Colorado misuse prescription drugs each year.  The death rate has doubled over that past 10 years.

An Arapahoe county task force is targeting what they call the fastest growing drug problem in Colorado.   State officials are joining law enforcement and medical experts from Kaiser Permanente to encourage patients to dispose of unused prescription drugs.

They are also reaching out to those who are addicted to seek assistance from the many resources available.  The announcement comes in preparation of National Prescription Drug Take Back Day on September 27.

DEA statistics show more people die from the abuse of prescription drugs than from car accidents.  Dr. Kelly Lear-Kaul of the Arapahoe County Coroner’s Office says, “Anybody can  have a prescription medication prescribed which can then lead to abuse either by themselves or by someone else.”

Kristina Searls is making a public appeal to stop the abuse of painkillers.  Her brother James Patrick Carroll, a University of Colorado student,  died after developing a dependency on prescription medication.  He eventually took one hydrocodone pill while also taking anti-anxiety medication.

Searls says he fell asleep, but never woke up. “We just found him the next morning not breathing.”

The frightening thing is that many people make the mistake of thinking they aren’t dealing with dangerous medication.  Many fatalities occur when a patient takes a prescription painkiller then drinks an alcoholic beverage.

Painkillers are depressants, when mixed with other medication or alcohol the result is that the heart beat is slowed to the extreme and the patient can die.

Dr. Lear-Kaul says the primary sign of addiction is lying to get another prescription.  She says, “They're falsifying symptoms or maybe exaggerating their level of pain in order to get a prescription.”

Searls says her family will never recover from the death of her brother Patrick and vows to help educate the community about how easy it is to become addicted to medication. “Just the simple fact of locking up your medications, even if you don't think people coming to your house would take them, lock them up anyway.”

If you feel you are  becoming dependent on prescription painkillers seek help immediately.  Contact your physician or get free counseling.   You can also learn more from the foundation set up in James Patrick Carroll’s memory.

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