By County Executive Edward P. Mangano
Another pharmacy was robbed this weekend for prescription painkillers. That makes four such robberies in Nassau County this year. While it may not seem like a lot, after three innocent people were killed in a tragic Medford pharmacy robbery, one is too many.
The underlying issue behind these robberies is prescription drug abuse. The bottom line is that this abuse has reached epidemic proportions. Simply put, it has become a health crisis. Prescription drug abuse is a complex problem and requires a complex solution. Together, we need a focused effort to address it.
Prescription drugs or “painkillers”- such as Oxycodone – have surpassed Heroin as the substance with the highest number of drug-related deaths inNassau County, as well as in the highest number of reasons for admission to local drug treatment programs. Unfortunately, this is especially true for young people.
Nationally, the number of deaths due to painkillers now ranks second, with the first being deaths caused by traffic accidents.
Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that abuse of prescription narcotics killed more people in 2010 than cocaine and heroin combined. However, the statistics from Nassau County alone are just as startling. Last year, 98 Nassau County residents died from Opiate use, with one-third of those deaths related to Oxycodone use. Between January and June of this year, 25 more Nassau residents died from these extremely dangerous, yet easily accessible drugs.
Admissions to treatment centers for prescription drugs increased 82% from 2007 to 2010, while admissions for Oxycodone abuse alone increased 160% during the same time period. People between the ages of 19 and 26 accounted for the most significant increase in admissions
to treatment centers.
What can we do about the growing problem?
Here in Nassau County, our Heroin Prevention Task Force has already begun to tackle the problem of prescription drug abuse by educating the doctors who prescribe these painkillers and the pharmacists who fill the prescriptions, on how to identify the signs of an addiction. Additionally, Nassau County is advocating for legislation meant to curb “doctor-shopping” among addicts, as well as making parents and other caregivers aware of the dangers of keeping leftover medications in the home.
Residents can curb prescription drug abuse by educating their children at a young age and by properly disposing unused prescription medications at local police precincts on October 29, 2011. This is important as statistics indicate that 70% of children who abuse
prescription drugs get them from family or friends.
Please join me in shedding light on this long-hidden problem.