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Pain Killer Abuse on the Rise in Oregon

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MEDFORD, Ore. – Oregon has the highest rate of prescription drug abuse in the country. According to the national survey on drug use and health more than one in fifteen people in Oregon admit to non-medical prescription pain killer use.

Shanah Powell was one of those addicts.

“I liked the warm, fuzzy feeling I got in my head,” said Shanah. “And I didn’t care about anything.”

Two years of addiction took her job, her house, and nearly her life – until she decided to get treatment.

“I didn’t want to die. I didn’t. And I knew that’s where it would lead,” said Shanah.

Now three years sober, Shanah is one of the ones who escaped. But more and more Oregonians are falling into dependency. And it often starts with a trip to the doctor or emergency room. Patients would come to clinics or emergency departments claiming to suffer from a chronic condition. They’d get a few pills, then go to another clinic to repeat the process

But that’s now starting to change.

“We can see what prescriptions people have picked up from any pharmacy in Oregon for any controlled substance,” said Dr. Eric Loeliger, Emergency Department Medical Director for Three Rivers Hospital.

Emergency departments can now not only see what prescription someone has, but the last time they got their medication and how much was given out.

That’s done through a tool called the Omnibox. It monitors sensitive substances down to every single pill. It also keeps them off limits to almost everyone, even doctors.

“I think there’s just a general rule that if someone should be able to prescribe them, they shouldn’t have access to them,” said Loeliger.

But that’s just a start.

Addiction experts say to make serious progress, medical providers will need to consider the consequences before prescribing at all.

Shanah says she had to learn the consequences the hard way, and still thinks about it daily.

“Still, to this day, it’s a process,” said Shanah. “And I get to do it every day for as long as I want to be clean.”