Crime: Other People's Pills
“Here, try this pill. My doctor says it helps pain”. The person who said this to a friend or family member just committed a crime. “Here try this pill. It will make you feel great”. The person who said this to a 16 year old at a party just committed a crime. Both scenarios involve other people’s pills and are example of a nationwide problem called diversion. Both can have life- threatening consequences. The first scenario can ruin a life just as easily as the second scenario. Using other people’s pills can be dangerous because of possible unknown drug interactions and contraindications. Selling or giving away pills can send people down a road full destructive choice. Intentional or not, prescription drug diversion hurts many people.
In a nationwide survey, researchers found that:
Among persons age 12 or older who used pain relievers non-medically in the past 12 months, 55.7 percent reported in 2006 that they got the pain relievers they most recently used from a friend or relative for free. Another 9.3 percent bought from a friend or family member.
Of those cases that received a diverted drug from a friend or family member, at least 80 percent of those individuals indicated that the friend or family member obtained the drug from one doctor.
Even more disturbing is the impact that diverting has on the adolescent population. In a survey of teenagers, one in five reported abusing prescription drugs. And 41% agreed with the statement that “using prescription drugs without a prescription was safer than using illegal drugs”.
Following the tracks of a prescription medication from the doctor’ prescription pad to the individual who diverted the drug to the friend or family member or dealer, eventually this pill trail can end in a detox unit. Of those surveyed in a detox unit, 32% of the self-admitted addicts said that their drug abuse started with a diverted prescription medication.
This trail of diversion misery can also end in the cemetery. In a recent report from the Office of the National Drug Control Policy, officials found that non-medical use of prescription drugs was a serious threat with “Unintentional deaths involving prescription opioids increasing 114 percent from 2001 to 2005, and treatment admissions increasing 74 percent in a similar four-year period.”
Ultimately, a seemingly innocuous statement of “Here, try this” can have deadly consequences. Other people’s pill should remain in the hands of the original, intended user. No matter how innocent and harmless the transaction may seem. Using other people’s prescription drugs is not safer than using illegal drugs. If someone offers you a pill, no matter what it is claimed to be or do, please decline. If the pill was not prescribed by your doctor, please do not use it. If you are the one diverting saying “Here try this.” or saying “How much will you give me for it?” shame on you. Of course not everyone obtaining legitimate prescription pain medications are diverting, but there are those among the innocent who are offering pills to others. These diverters need to stop this criminal behavior that hurts so many people.
Christina Lasich, M.D., wrote about chronic pain and osteoarthritis for HealthCentral. She is physiatrist in Grass Valley, California. She specializes in pain management and spine rehabilitation.