WARREN, Ohio (WKBN) – According to statistics, Trumbull County ranks 11th in Ohio when it comes to the number of pain pill prescriptions filled.
Officials said it is not helping when it comes to fighting the heroin epidemic. But as Trumbull County Bureau Chief Jeff Levkulich found out, legislators are trying to curb that practice.
“Janice” is a recovering heroin addict. She said the first substance she put in her body was when she was 13 years old.
“I didn’t use any harder substances until I was older than that and a lot of the things I did abuse were prescriptions, to be honest,” she said.
What first started out as using pain medication for teenage menstrual cramps slowly developed into a deeper desire for harder drugs. Both she and her mother would do drugs together, and Janice even began using her mother’s leftover pain medication when she was in Hospice.
“I never stole from her or anything like that, but she would give them freely when she didn’t need them and if she had some that were left over..It was a crazy kind of path that we both ended up on,” Janice said.
Captain Jeff Orr with the Trumbull Ashtabula Group Law Enforcement Task Force said prescription painkillers are overprescribed in Trumbull County, which is leading to the addiction problem.
“They are prescribing above the per capita for the rest of the state for these narcotics and when it comes to the treatment drugs like Suboxone, the prescribing practices are below the rest of Ohio,” Orr said.
Local pharmacists said they try to do their part to weed out the prescriptions that are really needed from the ones that are the result of addiction. At Franklin Pharmacy in Warren, where they have been in business for 49 years, they do not fill out-of-state prescriptions and are constantly communicating with doctors before they fill a narcotic for a customer.
“That is where our strong point is, as opposed to maybe some other pharmacies. We know our people and we know our physicians and we are here to help people as well. And there are legitimate people out there who have pain,” Franklin Pharmacy pharmacist Irene Buccino said.
The state has taken notice and are putting more safeguards in place. Recently, Governor John Kasich signed legislation that requires physicians and other prescribers to register in Ohio Automated Rx Recording System, or OARRS, which tracks pain pill prescriptions, before they renew their license the next time.
“So we have been seeing an uptick in the use of this database and I anticipate that will help inform where people are doctor shopping,” Tracy Plouck, director of Ohio Mental Health and Addiction Services said.
She said unfortunately, Pennsylvania does not have a similar system in place.