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Published January 26, 2012, 11:30 PM

Medical community pushes anti-heroin effort

Counselor sees transition from prescription pills to street drug
FARGO – Wanda Roden’s pharmacy students at North Dakota State University have been speaking publicly for two years about the dangers of prescription drug abuse, but Thursday was the first time she heard about how it can lead to a more dangerous drug.

FARGO – Wanda Roden’s pharmacy students at North Dakota State University have been speaking publicly for two years about the dangers of prescription drug abuse, but Thursday was the first time she heard about how it can lead to a more dangerous drug.

“The heroin connection was an eye-opener for me,” she said.

To help heighten awareness of the potential path from pills to heroin, U.S. Attorney Tim Purdon on Thursday spoke with representatives from hospitals, treatment centers, ambulance services and other medical providers.

“We had a really good discussion, and I think really made a lot of good connections between law enforcement and the medical community,” he said.

Purdon launched an anti-heroin campaign in December, prompted by an uptick in heroin cases locally and a concerning rise in heroin overdoses in other Midwest cities such as Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Josh Maynard, a licensed addiction specialist at ShareHouse, a chemical dependency treatment center in Fargo, said he’s noticed “a few more clients popping up with that general progression” from prescription pills to heroin, which officials say can be cheaper and easier to get.

“It starts off with the oxycodone, opiate-based prescription pain meds, and finally financial matters come into it and they end up getting into heroin use,” Maynard said.

Roden, a registered pharmacist and faculty member in NDSU’s College of Pharmacy, Nursing and Allied Sciences, also advises a student pharmacy group that has been giving a prescription drug abuse presentation, “Generation Rx,” to students and parent-teacher groups in the area for the past two years.

Thursday’s meeting revealed more opportunities to partner with law enforcement and other groups to offer the presentation, which will now address the potential link to heroin, Roden said.

“I don’t think anybody was making that association before that meeting today, or if they were, it just increased awareness,” she said.

Ridding the medicine cabinet of unused pills is a good start to preventing prescription drug abuse, but it’s also important for parents to be educated on the signs of abuse and when to refer someone to a doctor, counselor or treatment center, Maynard said.

“It’s very important for the parents to have that education to be able to identify and sit down with their kids and say, ‘You know what, let’s talk about this,’ ” he said.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Mike Nowatzki at (701) 241-5528

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