Prescription Drug Abuse Leads To Local Heroin Problem - 47 ABC - Delmarva's Choice

Prescription Drug Abuse Leads To Local Heroin Problem

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CAROLINE CO, Md. - A drug bust in Caroline County has raised concerns over the rise in prescription drug abuse.  "It's a pretty shocking situation to be on for little Caroline county," says Caroline County State's Attorney, Jonathan Newell.

After a three month investigation on the illegal distribution of heroin, an undercover police officer with the Caroline County Drug Task Force was able to purchase quantities of heroin from 23-year-old Anthony Philip Geraci and 22-year-old Edward Drew Graham,  both from the Denton area.

In all, six people were arrested at the beginning of 2013 for heroin distribution in Caroline County, along with dozens of others who have been taken in for heroin related charges.  According to Newell, the increase in prescription drug and heroin abuse makes for about 80 percent of the county's property crimes like thefts, burglaries, and robberies.

The problem reaches beyond the boarders of Caroline County; regulating opiate abuse has become a statewide initiative in Maryland because of how easy it is to come by the very powerful drugs.

Experts say it can start right in the home, in the medicine cabinet.  People are often prescribed painkillers for an injury, or after surgery, but the tiny pills can be extremely addictive.  As doctors become more aware of the painkiller abuse,  health officials say some doctors are actually under prescribing the drug for fear of sparking an addiction.  This can send some users to get their high elsewhere. 

"It's a little more difficult to get a hold of prescription drugs," says Cynthia Schiffler of the Wicomico County Health Department, "now what people are doing, if they can get access to the heroin, that's what they'll do."

According to a report from the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene there were 205 heroin-related overdose deaths in the first seven months of 2012, compared to 145 during the same period in 2011, an increase of 41 percent. At the same time, overdose deaths related to prescription opioids like oxycodone, hydrocodone and methadone have declined by 15 percent, from 208 to 177.

But the state is working to combat the prescription drug and opioid problem.  The Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, which kicked off in December of 2012, but won't be fully functional until August of 2013, allows doctors to track patients who may be getting painkillers from several sources.  Officials hope it will not only stop patients from abusing, they'd also like to see it give doctors more confidence to prescribe the dosage of painkillers to patients who really need them.

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