YOUR HEALTH: Making your prescription pills tamper proof

FORT LAUDERDALE, Florida – Every day in cities and small towns across the country, the sounds of sirens.

"Nationwide last year, 33 thousand deaths as a result of opioid overdoses," said David Scharf from the Broward County Sheriff's Department.

Scott Kjelson knows what it's like to lose someone to an opioid addiction.   His mom got hooked after she was prescribed pain pills.

"My mom was doctor shopping and she found doctors literally that would say here's 90 Percocets," he explained.

Experts say prescription drug abuse has become an epidemic in this country.

"It affects all people, at all walks of life, from adolescents all the way up to the elderly and seniors," explained Dr. David Mastropietro from Nova Southeastern University.

Abusers usually crush the pills in order to snort or inject the drug to get high.   That's why researchers at Nova Southeastern University have developed medications that deter this kind of abuse.

"So it's crush resistant, it's like a PVC pipe. It's very resistant, it's very hard, it's very difficult to crush it into fine powder for snorting," said Nova Southeastern University Pharmaceutical Sciences professor Hamid Omidian.

And if abusers try to liquefy the pill, it turns into a solid gel.

"It's going to be impossible for an abuser to draw that solution into a syringe and then inject it," said Dr. Omidian.

But if taken orally as intended, the technology doesn't lessen the effectiveness of the medication.

"If the physicians had a deterrent medication they would be alert to what to educate their patients on," said Scott Kjelson.

The three most commonly misused classes of medication are opioids; central nervous system depressants including tranquilizers, sedatives, and hypnotics; and stimulants.

  • An estimated 54 million people (more than 20% of people ages 12 and older) have used such medications for nonmedical reasons at least once in their lifetime
  • An estimated 2.1 million Americans used them in a nonmedical way for the first time within the past year, which makes for an average of over 5,000 per day.

Scott wishes this type of technology was available when his mother was alive.   Now he only has his memories.

"I hope I can prevent other families from going through what I went through".

Keeping hope alive in the battle against a dangerous addiction.

Researchers hope that the pharmaceutical manufacturers will be licensing these technologies once the FDA starts mandating abuse-deterrent medication.

NEED HELP?   Prescription drug recovery centers are available to assist these individuals who may have an addiction to prescription drugs.   When an individual develops this prescription addiction, they may become compulsive in their efforts to seek out the substance.

If you suspect someone close to you may be abusing, look for the following signs:

  • Frequently changing healthcare providers
  • Mood disorders or mood swings
  • Forged or fake prescriptions
  • Using different or multiple pharmacies
  • Rapid increase of dosage

If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Jim Mertens at jim.mertens@wqad.com or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com.