Prescription Drug Abuse Summit Draws Hundreds - WLNS TV 6 Lansing - Jackson | Your Local News Leader

Prescription Drug Abuse Summit Draws Hundreds

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LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – Attorney General Bill Schuette joined hundreds of law enforcement workers, policy makers and insurance providers at Lansing Community College on Tuesday to discuss the growing problem of prescription drug abuse in Michigan.

"The abuse of prescription drugs in Michigan and in America is of epidemic proportion," says Schuette.

Officials with the Michigan State Police say across the state, prescription drug deaths claim more lives than overdoses from cocaine, heroin and marijuana combined.

Day one of the two-day summit highlighted abuse among children as well as abuse within the medical community. "We see doctors and pharmacists who'll write prescriptions in bulk and give them to patients as kickbacks in exchange for their private information that they can use to bill Medicare, Medicaid, private insurers that are never even rendered so there's profit motives for the doctors and pharmacists," says U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade. "And that gets these drugs out on the street where street dealers are selling them on the corners."

From there, the drugs can often wind up in the hands of young people who've become addicted from abusing prescriptions in their medicine cabinets at home. Andrew Fortunato says as a teen he began abusing pain medication he got for a head injury, which eventually turned into a heroin addiction. "At the height of my addiction I was doing $400 a day, and I weighed 135 pounds," says Fortunado. "I would steal [from] family friends, relatives, neighbors, strangers. It really didn't matter who or what I was hurting as long as I was taking care of what I needed to take care of."

Officials urge parents to keep track of the prescriptions in their medicine cabinets, and suggest even locking them up to help prevent abuse.

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