Lawmakers say pain pills you can't crush would help curb heroin epidemic

 
 
Updated 4/13/2015 7:28 PM
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  • Terri Bartlett of McHenry has pushed for pills that can't easily be crushed into powder. She lost her son to a heroin overdose in 2012.

      Terri Bartlett of McHenry has pushed for pills that can't easily be crushed into powder. She lost her son to a heroin overdose in 2012. Mike Riopell | Staff Photographer

Curbing the abuse of prescription opioids would play a large part in slowing the suburban heroin epidemic that has been growing for years, lawmakers and local experts say.

One way to slow prescription drug abuse is by coating prescription opioids with an indestructible layer, making it impossible to crush the drug into a powder that can be snorted, advocates told the Daily Herald editorial board.

Legislation introduced by state Sen. Dan Kotowski, a Park Ridge Democrat, and similar legislation in the House would require insurance companies to give patients the option of the abuse-deterrent formulation as well as the regular formulation.

Many heroin users get their start with leftover pain-killing opioids prescribed to them or a family member, then turn to heroin because it is cheaper and more readily available.

"Opioid abuse is a big key to the epidemic that we have. The prescription drug abuse really is a gateway in many cases," said state Rep. Emily McAsey, a Lockport Democrat and sponsor of the bill in the House.

Earlier this year, some insurance companies opposed a similar proposal in Springfield, saying the plan would drive up costs and not curb drug addiction problems.

Opioids in their pill form are slow acting, and most never reach the blood stream, said Dr. Michael Rock of Chicago's Community First Medical Center.

"When you crush it and put it into a powder form and you snort it, now you're bypassing the liver and (it) goes directly into the bloodstream," Rock said. "You get a real quick high, and you get 10 times as much."

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