Prescription Drug Abuse Takes Center Stage at Summit - 8 News NOW

Prescription Drug Abuse Takes Center Stage at Summit

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LAS VEGAS -- The Nevada attorney general says Nevada is one of the worst in the country when it comes to pharmaceutical drug abuse.

Just last week, a federal grand jury indicted a Las Vegas doctor for over-prescribing Oxycodone.  Leaders of Nevada's High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, or HIDTA program, say three times as many people die each year from prescription overdoses than from heroin, methamphetamine, and cocaine combined.

They predict the state's drug problem will only get worse unless some drastic changes are made. Experts say Nevada ranks in the top five for the abuse of hydrocodone, oxycodone and methadone.  Some are people who start with a prescription and end up getting hooked, others may find the drugs in the family medicine cabinet. Hundreds of people die in Clark County every year.

"We hear that they've been prescribed large amounts of drugs at high dosage it does raise a red flag. Why are the doctors prescribing such high doses?" said Jantz Luna, a case manager at Westcare.

Leaders of treatment facilities and multiple law enforcement agencies met at the HIDTA summit Monday to discuss the disturbing trend.

"We are not going to arrest our way out of a drug problem," North Las Vegas Police Lt. Tim Bedwell said.

He says any cop knows more prescription drugs are being swallowed, snorted and injected than ever before.

"Prescription medications are now the number one gateway drug to illicit drug use, it used to be marijuana."

Attorney general Catherine Cortez Masto spoke at the summit. She says law enforcement alone will not bring down the abuse of pharmaceuticals. She says doctors need to get involved in finding a solution.

"I don't want to submit some sort of legislation in the next legislature dictating to doctors what they can or can't do. I'd prefer them to come to the table like everybody else in this community to address this issue and that's what we are going to be working on," she said.

Some of the experts at the summit say the answer is simple -- Stop the drugs at the source.

"I think that doctors need to dig a little deeper when it comes to prescribing narcotics," Luna said.

According to Pro-Publica, Nevada doctors have taken more than $12 million from drug companies. There were no prescribing physicians at the summit Monday.

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