Experts say the widespread use of painkillers has launched an "addiction epidemic" across the country.
An Associated Press report says pharmacies dispensed enough controlled medications to give every person in the country 40 5-mg Percocet and 24 5-mg Vicodin tablets.
Pharmacies fill prescriptions at a rapid rate every day. Dr. David Paulsrud says prescription addicts feel like they've found a shortcut to find pleasure, and that's through prescription medications. Sometimes people can find old drugs in a medicine cabinet, but often the addiction is sparked by continued use of a medication, when it's no longer necessary.
"Narcotics attach to one principle receptor in the brain, and that receptor very quickly can get beyond your conscience control," said Paulsrud.
He says it's also difficult to know just how much pain someone is in.
"They actually have feeling the pain, they're not faking it. But the pain has been created by the addiction," said Paulsrud.
"Two commonly abused types that we will run across will be those in the pain relief families, something similar to a hydrocodone or some of the antidepressant medications," said Ryan Bertrand.
A typical stock bottle of a drug like hydrocodone could last a patient anywhere from two to three weeks. For an addict, the drug could be used up in just a couple of days.
"What kills a lot of people is that they mix the narcotic with the tranquilizer, a benzodiazepine and that's a lethal combination," said Paulsrud.
Bertrand says local pharmacists are doing a good job in keeping the number of fraudulent scripts low, but it always helps to double check.
"If they have any doubt about the prescription, if they're writing looks like something's been scratched out and replaced, it's just a matter of making a phone call," said Bertrand.
The withdrawal effects of many of the medications can be difficult too, and the patients can crave the drug for months after they stop taking it.
"Perhaps it's better to bear a little pain than to take the risk of becoming a narcotic addict," said Paulsrud.
Sioux City police are offering a drug take back day on April 28.That's so folks will have an opportunity to return expired, unused, and unwanted prescription drugs.
Four locations including the downtown Walgreens store, Southern Hills Hy-Vee, Westside Fareway, and the Floyd Boulevard Wal-Mart store will be set up for returns.