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New Proposal For Battling The Rise In Opioid & Heroin Addiction

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USER: Hendrike, Wikipedia // USER: Deviation56, Wikipedia
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Herion & prescription pain killers

Instances of prescription opioid abuse have been steadily climbing in the past couple decades across the country, and here in Illinois. According to the state's department of public health more than half of the overdose deaths in Cook County in 2014 were due to heroin. 

The problem is, many prescription drugs meant to manage pain - the ones doctors say are most effective, are opiates - and in the same drug category as heroin. Overdosing on those can cause death too. The Illinois Poison Center calls prescription drug abuse a "public health crisis."

In this set of interviews we hear from Dr. Michael Rock, who is the attending physician in Anesthesiology and Pain Management at Community First Medical Center in Chicago. He says opiates are beneficial to many of the patients he treats - however he is still a proponent of a measure being discussed in the statehouse that would make it easier for doctors to prescribe pills that are harder to abuse. The pills are called ADPs for their "abuse deterrent properties." The plan would ensure insurance companies covered the drugs.

Dr. Rock  says: "Abuse-detterent opioids allow the patient to have the medication they need with a significantly reduced risk of abuse." At a recent press conference he demonstrated the effectiveness of one deterrent technology; he tried to crush a pill into powder but instead it broke off into a few pieces, which would make it impossible to snort. Rock says many pill abusers crush them and snort the powder, which has a much higher potency and can sometimes lead to overdose.

Dr. Rock says for many of his patients though - the pills are needed for a productive life: "Somebody who is getting long-term opioids prescribed by a physician who monitors them for functionality, they need to be cut some slack. They are not responsible for the opioid epidemic, and they are as much victims in this situation as anyone else, because they get treated like criminals, and they're not. They are people who are suffering tremendously."

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Credit courtesy of Kevin Kaminski
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Kevin Kaminski is a recovering heroin and prescription pill addict

Kevin Kaminski also supports the measure being discussed by lawmakers; it has yet to get a vote in either chamber. He's from Lake County in northern Illinois. He's struggled with addiction to both heroin and prescribed pills. He's now sober and going to school to become a certified drug counselor. He's worked with projects in his community meant to help addicts like himself. He says, "Abuse-deterrent pills won't solve the entire opioid abuse issue, but every single person who is deterred from abuse is an important victory." Tune in above to hear from both Dr. Rock and  Mr. Kaminski.

Rachel Otwell of the Illinois Times is a former NPR Illinois reporter.
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