"In the past few years we have witnessed a segment of our tribal population escalate the abuse and diversion (theft and sale) of prescription drugs. Indian Country is experiencing the same impact as other Montana communities. We have our share of doctor shoppers, pill dealers and heartbreaking examples of overdose cases.
As a tribal member who has worked in criminal justice throughout Indian Country, I also have personal examples of loved ones who became addicted to prescription drugs, ended up in prison because of drug-related crimes or destroyed family relationships because of addiction.
Although methamphetamine continues to be a major affliction to our community health, we see the prescription drug abuse as an enemy sneaking up on us. In part, this is because of the misunderstanding about prescription drugs. It is not seriously considered a "drug" because it is prescribed by a doctor. For example, how many occasions can you recall of someone saying: "Take one of these pills, they are for (insert symptom here), I got them from the doctor." Prescription drug abuse is not widely considered to be as "bad" as meth or cocaine.
How serious is the situation? Consider the 2009 National Drug Threat Assessment, which states, "Increasingly, diverted pharmaceuticals pose a greater problem to some Native American communities than methamphetamine." In January, a man driving under the influence of alcohol and prescription drugs crashed his automobile and killed a woman on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation. In 2007, the Montana State crime lab attributed 141 deaths to four major prescription painkillers compared with seven attributed to methamphetamine."
Get the Story:
Steven Juneau: Effort needed to stem prescription drug abuse in Indian Country
(The Billings Gazette 6/19)