Hooked Rx: From Prescription to Addiction


THE DOCUMENTARY AIRS ON 30 BROADCAST TV STATIONS AND 97 OF THE STATE'S RADIO STATIONS AT 6:30 TONIGHT. MORE THAN 100 STUDENTS AND OVER A DOZEN FACULTY MEMBERS AT ASU'S CRONKITE SCHOOL JOURNALISM AND MASS COMMUNICATION WERE INVOLVED IN THE PROJECT. HERE NOW TO TALK ABOUT THE DOCUMENTARY AND THE PRESCRIPTION DRUG PROBLEM IN GENERAL IS DOUG COLEMAN SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGE OF THE BUREAU OF THE DEA. PEGGY CHASE PRESIDENT AND CEO OF TERROS HEALTH AND ADDICTION RECOVERY ORGANIZATION AND SEAN LOGAN, STUDENT WHO IS THE DIRECTOR AND EDITOR OF THE DOCUMENTARY. GOOD TO HAVE YOU ALL HERE. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR JOINING US. I WILL START WITH YOU. THIS RISE IN PRESCRIPTION OPIOID ABUSE, WHY?

DOUG COLEMAN: I THINK IT'S PRETTY SIMPLE. WE HAVE GOT 52,000 PEOPLE A YEAR THAT ARE DYING FROM DRUG OVERDOSES IN THIS COUNTRY. 33,000 DIRECTLY RELATED TO OPIOID ABUSE AND SUBSEQUENTLY HEROIN ABUSE. WHAT'S HAPPENED IS A LONG TIME AGO WE STARTED TEACHING DOCTORS THAT THESE DRUGS MIGHT BE THE CURE FOR A LOT OF ILLNESSES THAT THEY ACTUALLY AREN'T. SO OVER THE COURSE OF THE LAST 20 YEARS, THEY STARTED OVERPRESCRIBING. RIGHT NOW WE HAVE 5% OF THE WORLD POPULATION AND WE ARE USING 99% OF THE WORLD'S HYDROCODONE. 5% OF THE POPULATION USING 78% OF THE WORLDS OXYCODONE, THAT'S A LOT OF DRUGS BEING PRESCRIBED IN THE UNITED STATES.

TED SIMONS: WHY ARE THESE DRUGS BEING PRESCRIBED SO OFTEN?

PEGGY CHASE: WELL, YOU KNOW, WE STARTED HERE IN THIS COUNTRY WITH REALLY SAYING THAT, YOU KNOW, WE NEED TO REDUCE PAIN AND THAT PEOPLE WERE REALLY WANTING TO BE ABLE TO HAVE SURGERIES AND DIFFERENT MEDICAL CONDITIONS AND TO HAVE PAIN RELIEF FROM THAT. AND SO THAT'S REALLY KIND OF WHERE WE STARTED WITH SOME OF IT AROUND THE PRESCRIPTION OPIOIDS. AND IT'S EFFECTIVE IN HELPING TO REDUCE SOME OF THE PAIN SHORT-TERM. IT'S NOT NECESSARILY LONG TERM. THAT'S WHERE WE REALLY KIND OF BEGAN WITH SOME OF THE CHANGES THAT WE HAD.

TED: SEAN, AS FAR AS THE DOCUMENTARY IS CONCERNED, WHAT DID YOU WANT TO FOCUS ON? THERE ARE SO MANY ANGLES, TENTACLES TO THIS STORY. WHAT DID YOU WANT THE FOCUS TO BE?

SEAN LOGAN: WELL, I THINK THE MAIN FOCUS IS ON THE ADDICTS THEMSELVES. THEY ARE THE PEOPLE AFFECTED THE MOST WITH THIS EPIDEMIC. WITH THIS DOCUMENTARY WE WANTED TO ALSO FOCUS ON SOME OF THE ROOTS OF THEIR ADDICTIONS WHICH SOMETIMES CAN BE CAUSED BY A DOCTOR AND WHETHER THAT'S BECAUSE THEY GOT INJURED OR THEY BECAME I WILL AND HAD TO GO TO THE HOSPITAL. WE JUST FOUND THAT IT'S SO EASY TO GET HOOKED ON THESE PRESCRIPTION OPIATES.

TED: SEAN MENTIONED FOCUSING ON THESE PEOPLE WHO ARE ADDICTED. WHO IS THE TYPICAL PERSON THAT GETS ADDICTED?

DOUG COLEMAN: THAT'S THE INTERESTING THING ABOUT THIS DRUG ABUSE ISSUE. MOST DRUG ABUSERS YOU CAN PUT THEM INTO CERTAIN CATEGORIES. BUT OPIOID ABUSE AND HEROIN ABUSE THAT WE ARE SEEING NOW, IT'S MEETING ALL SOCIOECONOMIC AREAS. ALL DEMOGRAPHICS. IT SPREAD THROUGHOUT THE COUNTRY. THERE IS NO PIECE OF THE UNITED STATES THAT'S NOT BEING TOUCHED BY THIS ISSUE RIGHT NOW.

TED: AGAIN, AS PEGGY MENTIONED, PEOPLE GET HURT, THEY GET INJURED. THEY PRESCRIBE THIS TO RELIEVE THE PAIN. AT WHAT POINT DOES IT BECOME A PROBLEM?

DOUG COLEMAN: THE ISSUE IS THESE THINGS ARE SO POWERFUL AND WE'RE DEMANDING THEM FROM DOCTORS, RIGHT? ALL OF US, AMERICA IS A PILL POPULAR SOCIETY. WE ARE DEMANDING THEM. THE DOCTORS ARE GIVING THEM TO US. WE DON'T REALIZE THE STRENGTH OF THESE MEDICATIONS. SO IT BECOMES VERY EASY TO GET HOOKED ON THEM. AND THE CYCLE OF ADDICTION ULTIMATELY, EVENTUALLY LEADS TO HEROIN ADDICTION BECAUSE THEY BECOME TOO PRICEY TO STAY UP WITH ALL THE PILLS AND SO IT SWITCHES OVER TO HEROIN EVENTUALLY.

TED: WHAT ARE YOU SEEING AT TERROS? WHEN YOU SEE SOMEONE, THE USUAL PERSON, HOW LONG HAVE THEY BEEN ADDICTED? ARE THEY SURPRISED? ARE THEY SHAMED? ARE THEY JUST RAVENOUS TO GET MORE OF THIS STUFF? GIVE US SOME PROFILES HERE?

PEGGY CHASE: WELL, I THINK YOU SEE SOME OF ALL OF WHAT YOU JUST STATED. FIRST AND FOREMOST THAT WHEN YOU ACTUALLY HAVE AN ADDICTION, IT'S ACTUALLY A PHYSICAL CONDITION CHANGE. SO IT BECOMES A DISEASE. AND YOUR BRAIN WAVES HAVE CHANGED. SO NOW THEN YOU ARE REALLY AT A POINT SO THAT YOUR PHYSICAL BODY IS SAYING THAT THIS IS SOMETHING THAT YOU MUST HAVE AND YOU REALLY CRAVE IT IN AN AMAZING WAY. AND DEPENDING ON THE AGE OF THE PEOPLE AND WEIGHT AND YOUR OVERALL BODY MAKEUP, YOU KNOW, ADDICTION CAN HAPPEN DIFFERENTLY. AND ONE OF THE THINGS THAT WE'RE SEEING IS THAT TEENS IS WHERE IT HAPPENS THE FASTEST. THEIR BODIES ARE STILL DEVELOPING AND SO THAT'S REALLY THE AGE GROUP WHERE WE ARE SEEING WHERE THE ADDICTION OCCURS QUICKLY.

TED: SEAN, AS FAR AS THE DOCUMENTARY, WHAT ARE WE GOING TO SEE? ARE WE GOING TO SEE STORIES? ARE WE GOING TO SEE PREVENTATIVE EFFORTS? TELL US ABOUT.

SEAN LOGAN: ON THE DOCUMENTARY YOU WILL SEE AN ARRAY OF STORIES FROM ADDICTS WE INTERVIEWED, YOU KNOW, AT LEAST PROBABLY 30 PEOPLE OBVIOUSLY, NOT ALL OF THEM, MADE IT IN. BUT YOU WILL SEE ADDICT STORIES. STORIES OF RECOVERY. WENT TO MULTIPLE RECOVERY CENTERS. YOU WILL SEE ONE FROM SHOLO AND LAW ENFORCEMENT AND DOCTORS AS WELL TO SHARE THEIR SIDE OF THE STORY.

TED: IN DOING ALL OF THIS, DID ANYTHING SURPRISE YOU? DID YOU LEARN SOMETHING THAT YOU DIDN'T EXPECT?

SEAN LOGAN: YOU KNOW, JUST HOW EASY-- I MEAN, SO I WORKED ON THE HEROIN DOCUMENTARY THAT AIRED A COUPLE YEARS AGO.

TED: EXACTLY.

SEAN LOGAN: IT'S A LOT DIFFERENT IT DOESN'T HAVE THE SAME STIGMA THAT'S ATTACHED TO HEROIN, YOU KNOW, PRESCRIPTION PILLS DON'T BECAUSE THEY'RE LEGAL AT SOME POINT. THEY ARE PRESCRIBED TO YOU FROM A DOCTOR. SO THERE IS THIS NOTION THAT IT'S OKAY TO ABUSE THEM. ASK.

TED: YEAH.

SEAN LOGAN: A LOT OF PEOPLE'S CASES.

TED: IS THERE A SOCIETAL ELEMENT TO THIS THE IDEA THAT I GOT THEM FROM MY DOCTOR. I BROKE MY LEG OR SOMETHING. IT WAS OKAY FOR A WHILE, I'M JUST STAYING ON THESE THINGS UNTIL I CAN GET BETTER. I MEAN, MAKES IT A DIFFERENT FORMULA, DOESN'T IT.

DOUG COLEMAN: ABSOLUTELY. WHAT PEOPLE DON'T REALIZE, OXYCONTIN, HYDROCODONE THINGS WE TAKE FOR PAIN THEY ARE SYNTHETIC HEROIN IN A BOTTLE. SAME DRUG, IT'S THE SAME THING. BECAUSE IT'S BEEN GIVEN TO YOU BY A DOCTOR, AND IT'S UNDER THE DOCTOR'S CARE, THAT STIGMA, THAT IDEA OF A HEROIN JUNKY IN THE ALLI SHOOTING IT IS GONE. IT'S THE SAME DRUG. AND IT HAS THE SAME EFFECTS IF YOU ABUSE IT.

TED: I WOULD IMAGINE THE SAME EFFECTS IF YOU ARE TRYING TO GET OFF OF IT.

PEGGY CHASE: YEAH.

TED: TELL US ABOUT THAT.

PEGGY CHASE: I THINK THE FIRST THING I WANT US TO SHARE IS THAT TREATMENT DOES WORK. YOU KNOW, TENS OF THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE HERE IN ARIZONA EVERY YEAR BECOME CLEAN AND SOBER FOR SUBSTANCE ABUSE DISORDER. SO GROUP THERAPY WITH MEDICATION ASSISTED TREATMENT IS CONSIDERED THE BEST FORMULA FOR CARE AND WITH THE 12-STEP PROGRAM. SO I THINK THOSE ARE REALLY IMPORTANT THINGS TO KNOW THAT TREATMENT DOES WORK.

TED: OKAY. IT DOES WORK. BUT IT'S NOT EASY.

PEGGY CHASE: IT'S NOT EASY. IT'S VERY DIFFICULT. LIKE I SAID BEFORE, YOU KNOW, YOU HAVE NOW HAVE CHANGED BRAIN PATHWAYS. AND IT'S NOT NECESSARILY THOSE PATHWAYS THAT ARE REALLY CHANGING. IT'S REALLY THAT YOU LEARN HOW TO WORK WITH YOUR BODY AND YOUR PHYSIOLOGY DIFFERENTLY.

TED: YEAH.

PEGGY CHASE: BUT THE DESIRES CAN STILL BE PRESENT MANY YEARS LATER.

TED: I WAS GOING TO SAY AA KIND OF THING EVERY SINGLE DAY FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE YOU NEED TO BE ON GUARD.

PEGGY CHASE: YES, ABSOLUTELY.

TED: INTERESTING. LAST WORD, SEAN. WHAT DO WE TAKE FROM THE DOCUMENTARY?

SEAN LOGAN: I THINK YOU TAKE FROM THIS DOCUMENTARY THAT PEOPLE NEED TO BE AWARE AND KNOW HOW POTENTIALLY DANGEROUS THAT THESE DRUGS CAN BE. YOU KNOW, YOU GET HURT, YOU GET INJURED. YOU GO TO THE HOSPITAL. YOU HAVE TO BE CAREFUL WITH THE DRUGS THAT YOU'RE PRESCRIBED. AND I THINK YOU SHOULD THINK TWICE BEFORE, YOU KNOW, TAKING PRESCRIPTION OPIATES FOR MAYBE TRIVIAL INJURIES IF THEY THEY OFFER TO PRESCRIBE THEM TO YOU. YOU SHOULD QUESTION THAT.

TED: VERY GOOD. GREAT WORK AGAIN. THE FOLLOW-UP THE AWARD WINNING DOCUMENTARY FROM A COUPLE YEARS AGO FROM THE CRONKITE SCHOOL. GOOD TO HAVE YOU ALL HERE. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR JOINING US. WE APPRECIATE IT?

PEGGY CHASE: THANK YOU.

DOUG COLEMAN: THANK YOU.

“Hooked Rx: From Prescription to Addiction,” is a 30-minute investigative report on the alarming rise in prescription opioid abuse. The documentary will air on 30 broadcast TV stations and 97 of the state’s radio stations on one night. More than 100 students at ASU’s Cronkite school of Journalism and Mass Communication participated in the making of the documentary. We’ll talk to Doug Coleman, special agent in charge at the Phoenix bureau of the DEA, Peggy Chase, president and CEO of Terros Health, an addiction recovery organization, and a student at ASU’s Cronkite School of Journalism who was involved in making the documentary.

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