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Opioid use soars in Metro East

Wednesday, Apr 27, 2016

* Keep in mind that we’re talking about prescription drugs here

Madison and St. Clair County residents are buying opioid prescriptions at a rate that soars above the national average, according to new data from federal agencies.

In 2014, there were 14,367,940 oxycodone and hydrocodone pills sold in Madison County, and 9,031,240 sold in St. Clair County. That’s the most recent year that statistics were available from the federal Drug Enforcement Administration diversion program, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

That’s approximately 34 pills per St. Clair County resident, and 54 pills per Madison County resident.

By comparison, the statewide average per Illinois county is 153,841 pills a year, and the national average is 182,742 pills. That translates to 1.22 pills per Illinois resident or 1.73 pills per U.S. resident — a fraction of the ratio in Madison and St. Clair County. […]

Gibbons said according to the statistics his office has compiled, only about nine pills out of every 30 prescribed are used for legitimate medical purposes. The other 21 pills end up being sold, diverted or are otherwise feeding addictions, he said.

* Related…

* An Opioid Treatment Model Spawns Imitators

- Posted by Rich Miller        

30 Comments
  1. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Apr 27, 16 @ 11:46 am:

    Who are the docs writing all those scripts?

    Because they are part of an organized criminal drug-dealing enterprise.

    We’ve seen it plenty of times all over the country.


  2. - Give Me A Break - Wednesday, Apr 27, 16 @ 11:55 am:

    Don’t worry about this, all will be fine as soon as the Turn Around Agenda is passed. Not like they have been hacking away at the substance abuse funding for programs or not paying those providers. All is well.


  3. - Ghost - Wednesday, Apr 27, 16 @ 12:11 pm:

    highly refined and significantly more addictive.

    legalize marijunan


  4. - Neophyte - Wednesday, Apr 27, 16 @ 12:14 pm:

    Look no further than mom’s purse, or the kitchen counter, or the medicine chest in the bathroom if you’re looking for the gateway drugs to heroin. Opioid prescription usage in th U.S. jumped from 76 million prescriptions in 1991 to 207 million in 2013. And we fret about a non-toxic weed with a historical safety record of having killed no one in 5,000 years? The black market pales in comparison to Big Pharma when we speak of drug pushers.

    www.drugabuse.gov > about nida


  5. - Driveby - Wednesday, Apr 27, 16 @ 12:17 pm:

    Rich, thanks for focusing on this. Opoids are a crisis and this is a bipartisan cause.


  6. - Indochine - Wednesday, Apr 27, 16 @ 12:30 pm:

    If you listen closely, you can almost hear the trial lawyers rubbing their hands in anticipation.


  7. - Honeybear - Wednesday, Apr 27, 16 @ 12:31 pm:

    Yep, had a man in our office OD just about a month ago. He stopped breathing, they had to do CPR. It was bad.

    It is a terrible crisis.


  8. - Daniel Plainview - Wednesday, Apr 27, 16 @ 12:31 pm:

    - gateway drugs to heroin -

    They’re no gateway.

    A very close friend, from the metro east, struggled with opioid addiction for years. He told me heroin was a last resort when you couldn’t find oxy or any of the other more pure and more potent prescription drugs.


  9. - Allen D - Wednesday, Apr 27, 16 @ 12:39 pm:

    I wonder if the metro east numbers of Opioid use have been compared with the high number of disabled veterans in the same area… usually overlooked. not saying this is not a problem even in the metro east however military vets have had long bouts of chronic pain and many are treated with opioids. just a thought.


  10. - Third Generation Chicago Native - Wednesday, Apr 27, 16 @ 12:50 pm:

    This should be easily traceable, hopefully all the pharmacies have are using a computer, and software that bills the insurance directly. They should be able to sort the information of who if filling and writing the Rx.
    You would hope that there are some law enforcement agencies already looking into all this information, and if there isn’t they should be.


  11. - Honeybear - Wednesday, Apr 27, 16 @ 12:51 pm:

    Oh wow, Allen D, that just blew my mind. GREAT CATCH!!!! Really really great catch. Although St.Clair is where the base is but you still could totally be onto something. Man, I am geeking out on that catch.


  12. - independent - Wednesday, Apr 27, 16 @ 12:55 pm:

    This crisis is occurring at a time when Illinois stopped paying any state money for Substance Abuse Prevention and the Congress stopped Drug-free money a couple of years ago and have flat-funded the substance abuse block grant in recent years. This crisis was predictable.


  13. - Give Me A Break - Wednesday, Apr 27, 16 @ 12:55 pm:

    Third Generation: A couple of years ago, DHS started a prescription monitoring program that does just what you describe. It has won national awards and reduced the amount of “prescription shopping” that is common.


  14. - Honeybear - Wednesday, Apr 27, 16 @ 12:57 pm:

    Oh also you’ve got a lot of roughnecks (not a derogatory term) who work at the refinery in woodriver and a lot of steelworkers from US Steel. These folks get injured a lot.


  15. - Third Generation Chicago Native - Wednesday, Apr 27, 16 @ 1:01 pm:

    Give me a Break It just does not seem the DHS system is in place here, or the information is not being used to see where the problem areas are (doctors/pharmacies/patients, etc)


  16. - codone - Wednesday, Apr 27, 16 @ 1:20 pm:

    Illinois’ current WC system encourages opioid overprescription: http://bit.ly/1VCD2h4


  17. - Give Me A Break - Wednesday, Apr 27, 16 @ 1:39 pm:

    Third Generation: Not sure what the current status is. The program, PMP, was quite an undertaking that involved DHS, ISP, DPH and the feds.


  18. - Allen D - Wednesday, Apr 27, 16 @ 1:44 pm:

    — Honeybear - Wednesday, Apr 27, 16 @ 12:51 pm:—
    It isn’t so much Scott AFB in St Clair county the VA hospital is just over the river that we all go to, John Cochran VA Hospital, Jefferson Barracks VA Hospital, and the VA remote clinic of John Cochran in Belleville, St. Charles MO, and one other place I can’t think of right now.


  19. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Apr 27, 16 @ 1:47 pm:

    These numbers are dated. Hydrocodone was changed from a Schedule III narcotic to a Schedule II narcotic in 2014. This change reduced the number of prescriptions being written as doctors now have to write prescriptions on a triplicate form with no refills. In addition, some of the managed care companies hired by the state in 2014 refuse to allow primary care doctors to prescribe pain medications. Medicaid clients are now required to go to a pain management clinic.(If you can find one that takes Medicaid)


  20. - anon - Wednesday, Apr 27, 16 @ 1:49 pm:

    54 pills per resident of Madison County compared to 1.2 pills per resident of the State. What is wrong with the doctors in Madison County? There is some serious abuse of prescription authority. Who can evaluate it and hold the worst abusers accountable?


  21. - cdog - Wednesday, Apr 27, 16 @ 1:59 pm:

    I have a 75 yr old neighbor who has used two fentanyl patches (75 and another smaller one) for many years, for pain from back surgery scarring and a non-malignant tumor. She has numerous side effects from this wickedly strong drug.

    In the last 24 hours I printed a ton of med mar research for her and her doctor about the proven success of decreasing the opiate use by supplementing with med mar.

    The result of this combo approach is tremendous relief of side effects and BETTER pain reduction. She is ready to try med mar; the doctor is going to be a tough one to persuade.

    Ironically, I tried to print off the application on the Illinois med mar web page and it said those forms are “no longer available.” (Illinois Medical Cannabis Pilot Program)

    Back to the post, something is a little suspicious about those numbers. And, the street value of the excess pills has to be staggering.


  22. - 47th Ward - Wednesday, Apr 27, 16 @ 2:10 pm:

    In other local news, stool softeners and laxatives are in short supply at many Metro East drug stores.


  23. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Apr 27, 16 @ 2:28 pm:

    –Illinois’ current WC system encourages opioid overprescription: http://bit.ly/1VCD2h4–

    For crying out loud, this didn’t start with Illinois worker’s comp.

    Give the google a workout. Purdue Pharma came up with a new product, Oxy, and loaded up docs with swag to push the new concept, “pain management.”

    Prescriptions for opiods quadrupled in a New York minute without any medical rationale.

    The WSJ and NYT have done yeoman’s work on this legal drug-dealing over the years.

    And, baby, these drugs, are the good stuff. The best stuff.

    Seems respectable when the doc gives you the script and you can fill it at Walgreens, no questions asked.


  24. - Allen D - Wednesday, Apr 27, 16 @ 2:28 pm:

    I might be able to explain a little of the numbers, since only # of pills are being counted, there are many times that a larger dose of pain medicine is not available they dispense double, triple, or quadruple of the number of pills to equal the same dosage. this means 1 pill turns into 2-4 pills for a count. just saying because it has happened to me once for my knee injury. so if this happens on routine, the number can extrapolates.


  25. - Levi Metroeast - Wednesday, Apr 27, 16 @ 3:34 pm:

    I was an appellate defender in Chicago for nine years before moving to St. Louis and transferring to the Mt. Vernon office last year. Having grown up in the mid-1990s in Clay County, I thought I would be handling wife beaters and DUIs. But the opioid and heroin use is overwhelming down here — and of course the theft crime and violent crime that goes hand-in-hand with the need to feed addictions and the need to keep the supply chain open. It is a sad, sad state of affairs. Growing up, I never knew anybody doing anything besides smoking pot. Then meth devastated my home county, and now… It’s just unreal.


  26. - crazybleedingheart - Wednesday, Apr 27, 16 @ 3:59 pm:

    The only thing worse than IL’s heroin and Rx opioid abuse problem is 95% of proposed “solutions.”


  27. - Arthur Andersen - Wednesday, Apr 27, 16 @ 4:33 pm:

    47, according to a very tasteful ad that airs regularly during the evening news, there is now a pill for um, that, too.


  28. - cdog - Wednesday, Apr 27, 16 @ 9:28 pm:

    23,000,000 extra pills?

    That is one big darn number.

    Something is wrong here.


  29. - Anon - Wednesday, Apr 27, 16 @ 9:28 pm:

    They say the statewide average per Illinois county is 153,841 pills a year. Multiply that by 102 counties and you get 15,691,782 pills for the state. But they say that more than that were sold in those two counties alone.
    So it looks like someone should recalculate.


  30. - anonymous - Thursday, Apr 28, 16 @ 12:28 pm:

    I’m an opioid user. I get a scrip for 15 of them 4x a year. Not enough to consider an addiction of any kind. But because some doofus abuses them those of us who do use them, for pain control and use them responsibly are bearing the burden. They can take pictures of the planet furthest away from the earth but we can’t seem to figure out how to allow those who have a true need to get a scrip without having to jump through hoops created by those who abuse the system. My Mom had a scrip for oxycodone in her last months of fighting cancer. Everytime I had to fill the prescription it was like pulling teeth. I’m tired of hearing all about the abuse. Do something or shut up about it. There are those who do require the prescription and they are druggies or abusers or sellers.


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