There’s a battlefront in New York City’s war on drugs, and it doesn’t involve crack cocaine or heroin.
Prescription painkiller abuse is now one of the top concerns for law enforcement officials and doctors.
New York City has seen an 80 percent increase from 2007 to 2010 in admissions to crisis drug treatment programs for those addicted to pills like Vicodin, OxyContin and Percocet, according to state health officials.
“It’s a fast-growing problem in northern Manhattan as it is across New York City,” said the city’s Special Narcotics Prosecutor, Bridget Brennan, at a meeting last week with White House drug czar Gil Kerlikowske to discuss the burgeoning epidemic.
Painkiller addiction poses a unique challenge because of the medical infrastructure. “These drugs are prescribed by doctors and obtained through legitimate pharmacies,” Brennan said.
Young adults and teens are particularly at risk for pill addiction, warns Dr. Deni Carise, chief clinical officer at the Phoenix House rehab center, because of the availability of drugs in their homes and the existence of “pill parties.” “Everyone grabs pills from medicine cabinets, puts them in a bowl, takes a handful and sees what happens,” said Carise.
Addict: ‘I?set my house on fire’
NEW JERSEY. Metro spoke to a Guttenberg, N.J, entrepreneur, C., 54, who was addicted to painkillers for eight years:
“It started with back pain,” he recalled. A doctor prescribed him 30 5mg pills of Percocet, but when he ran out, the same doctor handed him a prescription for 500 40 mg of OxyContin.
“I would take 6 to 8 in a half hour,” said C., who has since entered rehab and been clean for the past four years. “I was a mad man.”
At times when he was low on pills, he would pull up the carpet of his house looking for drugs. He got into dozens of car accidents due to the sedatives, but always denied he had a problem.
“I set my house on fire,” he said. “That’s when I realized something was wrong.”
Follow Emily Anne Epstein on Twitter @EmilyatMetro.