When prescription becomes addiction

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A bottle with a hydrocodone (the generic name for drug sold under other names by various pharmaceutical companies) label and hydrocodone tablets spilling out isolated on white background. Hydrocodone is a popular prescription semi-synthetic opioid that is used to treat moderate to severe pain. Hydrocodone is said to be one of the most common recreational prescription drugs in America.

Opioid addiction and misuse has become a national crisis, and Bexar County hasn’t been spared.

The problem often starts with a prescription written by a doctor or dentist to ease pain after an injury or procedure. In too many cases, the person prescribed that prescription develops an addiction over time. Or an unused portion is stolen by a drug-seeking relative or visitor.

“Most providers want to do the right thing,” said Dr. Bryan Alsip, chief medical officer of University Health System, speaking before the first meeting of the Joint Opioid Task Force, a group of experts and advocates working on the problem locally. “They walk a fine line between wanting to provide legitimate pain control to their patients after surgery or injury, while trying to prevent misuse, addiction or illegal diversion.”

Dr. Alsip, co-chair of the group, along with Dr. Colleen Bridger, director of the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District, is trying to get more providers to use the Texas Prescription Drug Monitoring Program, a database that can identify possible patterns of misuse, along with other educational efforts aimed at doctors,  dentists and other providers.

But for the general public, one of the best ways to prevent abuse is to safely dispose of unused or unwanted prescription drugs. Experts recommend doing that  through official take-back programs.

National Drug Take-Back Day is Oct. 28, and collection sites will be set up throughout the city. You can find a location close to you here. In addition, the MedDropSA program, operated by the San Antonio Water System and the city of San Antonio, holds collection events throughout the year. Check their site for the next one.

If you want to learn more about the opioid crisis and what’s being done locally about it, Dr. Alsip and Dr. Bridger will take part in a Town Hall meeting on opioids, organized by the San Antonio Express-News and the University of Texas at San Antonio. The event will be at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 26 at the UTSA downtown campus. You can reserve a seat here.

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