Abuse of prescription drugs a growing problem - NewsOn6.com - Tulsa, OK - News, Weather, Video and Sports - KOTV.com |

Abuse of prescription drugs a growing problem

BROKEN ARROW, Okla. (AP) _ Lortab, also known as hydrocodone, is an effective, frequently prescribed painkiller with a nasty side effect: possible addiction.

Broken Arrow police reports document what can happen: a pain sufferer becomes so dependent on the drug ``they'll do things to get it they normally could not conceive of _ like doctor shopping, forging prescriptions or outright theft,'' an officer said.

``For example,'' he said, ``an individual may have a legitimate need for the drug at first. When the prescription runs out of refills, a normally law-abiding person can do things to get the drug they'll be arrested for. Script forging is a felony that will follow them the rest of their lives.''

Earlier this week, police arrested a woman who used a local physician's information to forge hydrocodone prescriptions and obtain the drug from several drug stores in Broken Arrow and Tulsa.

She had previously been arrested for the same offense, records showed.

Broken Arrow Police Department Maj. Mark Irwin said a sentence for a first offender often includes mandatory rehabilitation, which is closely monitored by authorities.

``But sometimes people go to jail because they are habitual offenders.

``Obviously, the first thing to do is get people healthy and off the stuff.'' he said.

``Laureate in Tulsa offers rehabilitation services.

``If you have insurance you can seek out your own treatment and have it approved by the courts.''

Other programs include those offered by 12 & 12, Inc., Tulsa; and Valley Hope in Bristow.

``There are good plans in lots of places,'' said Irwin.

``Often, people are good candidates for Tulsa County's 'drug court,''' said Broken Arrow City Attorney Beth Anne Wilkening.

``One of the court's primary purposes is to get people into treatment and recognize that the crimes they are committing are a result of their addiction.

``The whole idea is to address the underlying problems to keep them from committing other crimes like burglary, robbery or murder.''

Professional organizations offer drug and alcohol assistance to the members, Wilkening said.

``The Oklahoma Bar Association has 'Lawyers Helping Lawyers,' which is a support system for attorneys with substance abuse problems.''

Wilkening described a tragic incident that affected her deeply.

``I have a really good friend from law school. She married an attorney who had pulled himself up by his bootstraps, worked for a great firm and was doing really, really well.

``He hurt his back and started down the hydrocodone road. He went to Valley Hope and to Lawyers Helping Lawyers, but he ended up dying of a drug overdose.

``Lortab got him started on the path, and he left behind a three-year-old daughter who is now growing up without a dad.''

Irwin and Wilkening both emphasized that painkillers like Lortab can lead users ``across the line,'' but, for first offenders at least, help is available through the courts.

``When addictive painkillers are prescribed, it calls for great care by practitioners and patients alike,'' Wilkening said.
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