Illinois doctors, local police respond to narcotic misuse

By Elyssa Kaufman

Since Feb. 16, there have been a dozen overdoses of heroin in the Champaign area, resulting in two fatalities.

This is not specific to Champaign though, as heroin use has spiked throughout the nation. In the last decade, first-time heroin users increased by 60 percent from 90,000 to 156,000 users, according to the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Troy Daniels, Champaign deputy police chief of operational support, said that after becoming addicted to narcotics, people may then seek out cheaper alternatives, such as heroin, when they can no longer obtain the prescription drug.

In response to overdoses of heroin and prescription drug abuse, new Illinois legislation was proposed to ensure enforcement officers possess and are trained to dispense antidotes to diminish the effects of overdoses. The proposal also aims to create pilot heroin prevention programs in elementary and secondary schools that would be put in place by the state Board of Education.

Due to the issue of the misuse of prescribed medications, the Illinois Controlled Substance Act went into effect in January of 2012. The act works to limit the prescriptions of narcotics and other drugs to a maximum 30-day prescription. In addition, Illinois doctors now use the Illinois Prescription Monitoring Program to monitor controlled substance prescriptions and prevent the misuse of medications, such as narcotics.

The proposed Heroin Crisis Act will be considered at a Special Committee on Substance Abuse hearing on Thursday.

Illinois Prescription Monitoring Program

The Illinois Prescription Monitoring Program allows physicians to access the narcotic or the C2 category drugs, that are prescribed to a patient through an Illinois state database, said Chicago-area Doctor Lawrence Layfer. The program was authorized under the Illinois Controlled Substance Act from 2012.

When a patient’s 30 day prescription is done, they must go through their same doctor to get a refill.

Layfer said a doctor can look online with the Illinois state registry and see whether a patient has been taking C2 drugs from any other doctor as well as determine if the patient is getting the drug from multiple pharmacies.

“This indicates to physicians whether their patients are following what is commonly recommended when we give C2 drugs, like narcotics. Patients agree to a one physician, one pharmacy agreement for prescribing,” said Layfer.

Prescription medication

Even with an act preventing the overuse of prescription medications, narcotic misuse is still prevalent on campus, Daniels said,

“It is easier to get a hold of narcotics now because of the number of prescription medications,” he said.

UIPD Detective Sgt. Joe McCullough said the University sees an influx in cases with Xanax, Vyvanse and Adderall around midterms and finals. He said the drugs serve as stimulants students use to stay awake.

“There are a number of people who are using illegal prescription medication,” Daniels said. “There are also people who are purchasing illegal prescription medication and other narcotics here in town or bringing them in through their home city.”

McCullough said that Attention Deficit Disorder medications are commonly used by students and there needs to be awareness on the appropriate uses of the drugs. Some students who are over prescribed for medications such as adderall tend to sell their extra pills, he said.

“I do not think we are going to legislate our way out of narcotic misuse,” McCullough said.

Overdoses

On Feb. 24, the Champaign Police Department sent out a press release regarding 10 overdoses of heroin and two fatalities.

“This is an unusually high number of reported incidents in the brief window of time,” Champaign Police Chief, Anthony Cobb, said in a press release. “This is a sensitive issue with multiple layers and our obvious objective is to remove the drugs and drug dealers off of our streets, but most importantly, this caution is issued, because we value the lives of all of our Champaign and neighboring citizens.”

McCullough talked to other Big Ten universities that have experienced fatalities due to overdoses.

“We have been working extensively with different universities, entities and offices to talk about the implications for this drug both on someone’s physical health and also their status as a student and facing criminal conduct charges for this drug use,” McCullough said.

McCullough said a bad dose of Molly at a club event could result in multiple people in the hospital with serious injuries or worse.

Ultimately, because a lot of students and people in the community want drugs for recreational use and are willing to get the drug in whatever way they can, Layfer said people need to be aware of the potential long-term harm.

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