Ohio pharmacists filled 2.7 million prescriptions in 2008 for high-powered painkillers such as OxyContin and Percocet, narcotics that contain oxycodone; that’s nearly one for every four people in the state, reports the Columbus Dispatch. They filled 4.8 million prescriptions for hydrocodone medications such as Vicodin, one for every 2 1/2 people in the state. County sheriffs say their jails are full of people who illegally sold or abused those drugs, underscoring what’s quickly gaining attention as a national epidemic.
Last week, the Adams County sheriff rented vans and shipped his prisoners to community centers throughout his southern Ohio county so he would have room in his jail for 28 people who were rounded up in a prescription-drug sting. The problem is statewide, but southern Ohio is particularly ravaged. The drug abuse is bad in this Appalachian stretch of Ohio for a number of reasons, authorities say: Scioto County’s unemployment rate hovers around 15 percent, and the drug trade can be lucrative; bordering states of Kentucky and West Virginia have significant amounts of prescription-drug abuse. The area has a track record of limited resources and uncooperative elected officials who have refused to help with drug investigations, said William Winsley, director of the Ohio State Board of Pharmacy. Those factors have created the perfect environment for illegitimate pain-management clinics — “pill mills” — where prescription drugs are easy to score. Authorities say that as many as eight such clinics could be operating in Scioto County alone, a county of about 74,000 people.