By Julie Wiessner
How much of a problem is drugs in the region? According to Navajo County Chief Deputy Sheriff Jim Molesa, it’s a big one. A 2007 volunteer survey conducted at the Coconino County Jail, a facility that houses from 400 to 450 people a day, indicates that 42 percent of the inmates admitted to a drug related problem. The issue has become an ongoing concern for law enforcement officials as the problem continues to grow.
“Navajo County is a smaller jail, and therefore has fewer numbers arriving every day, however, the averages of prescription drug abuse are close to the same,” stated Molesa.
This is the reason Molesa wants to get the word out to the public and physicians so that one source for drug abuse, prescriptions drugs, can be limited with a program available to physicians.
What has been happening, noted Molesa, is that people are “doctor shopping,” meaning they go from doctor to doctor complaining of a back ache, or neck pain or maybe fibromyalgia, and legitimate doctors who want to help them give them a prescription for pain, not knowing they may have already been given a prescription by another doctor.
“If physicians will join the Prescription Monitoring Program (PMP) maintained by the Pharmacy Board, they would be able to query a patients’ name to see if that person had recently asked any other doctor for pain medication,” Molesa explained.
“The PMP will help cut down on abusers being able to get a hold of pills that they either use for themselves because of addiction, or sell. On average, abusers of Oxycodon, Oxycotton, Vicodan or Hydrocodon can sell one pill for $25 to $30.”
According to Molesa, doctor shopping to obtain prescription pills is not only dangerous, it’s illegal. “People need to know that doctor shopping is a crime, and getting a prescription through false pretenses is also a crime,” he said.
“It use to be when you called the doctor, he would tell you take two aspirins and call me in the morning, but not anymore. It is important to educate our community about these issues, because addiction does not discriminate on age, race, socioeconomic status or any other demographic; it hits everyone.”
People who abuse prescription drugs generally do not view their addiction as a crime, but even if they obtain drugs legally, it could lead to problems later as their addiction affects their lifestyle.
“Many times, the 83 percent or 84 percent of people today who are in treatment have been brought to that precipice by law enforcement,” stated Molesa.
He hopes that with physicians taking part in the PMP it will become an effective method of monitoring those who abuse drugs, as well as those who sell them.
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By Julie Wiessner