A new report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration shows more people seeking treatment for addiction to prescription drugs. In particular, opiate addictions -- such as to the legal pharmaceutical Oxycontin -- jumped from 8 percent of all treatment seekers in 1999 to 33 percent in 2009. Earlier this year, President Obama's Administration released an action plan to deal with what it calls "America's prescription drug abuse crisis." Other more frightening statistics that point to an epidemic are the number of violent attacks on pharmacies. In New York this month, four people were gunned down and killed by a robber who stole thousands of painkillers. What has changed in the last decade that is responsible for the rise in abuse? If opiates are too dangerously addictive, what are the alternatives? Legislators want tougher penalties for prescription drug theft and trafficking -- how effective could that be to address addiction?
Lynn Webster, M.D., Medical Director of Life Tree Clinical Research, Salt Lake City, Utah