Posted 6:22 PM 1/21/2013 : Pain killer problems in Colorado
Colorado ranks high when it comes to abuse of prescription pain killers; in fact, only one state ranks higher in a recent study.
Prescribing pain killers has been a concern for Doctor Mark Carroll from the beginning. When his practice - Alliance Family Practice and Urgent Care in Colorado Springs - opened in 2007, an older physician warned him.
"Watch out," Dr. Carroll remembers him saying. "Right after you open, since you're the new young doctor on the block, that this will happen,"
He was talking about people coming in just to see if they would be able to get a prescription.
"Was his warning true?" News 5 asked.
"It rang shockingly true," responds Dr. Carroll.
So he was watching for it and taking extra precautions; like keeping narcotics prescriptions under lock and key, and also checking prescription databases for any red flags.
"It stopped," Dr. Carroll says.
Colorado recently ranked high on a list of states with issues of non-medical use of prescription pain killers, put together by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration through their National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Colorado was second in the country; only Oregon was higher.
Agent Matthew Barden, with the Drug Enforcement Administration office in Colorado Springs, says the problem is access; he points out that the pills are in a lot of homes across the country. He says that makes the fight to bring numbers down a difficult one.
Also, a scary trend Agent Barden has seen is people moving from pain killers to heroin; teens too. He says heroin has similar effects as some prescription pain killers, and it can be cheaper.
"It's a very fine balance," says Dr. Carroll, talking about trying to make sure patients have enough medication versus giving them access to too much.
Dr. Carroll says he believes Colorado doctors have some tools to keep prescription drugs out of the wrong hands - and help move Colorado down the list - as long as those tools are used.
According to the SAMHSA numbers, 18 - 25 year olds lead the way in Colorado when it comes to prescription pain killer abuse.