The painkiller hydrocodone is said to be the most-prescribed drug in Iowa, with more than 72-million doses prescribed statewide in 2010. It’s also the most-abused controlled substance in the country.
A clinic is opening in central Iowa this week that will focus on helping patients who take hydrocodone and similar types of drugs. Mike Vasquez, the C.E.O. of Harbor View Medical, calls them “high-risk” medications.
Vasquez says, “It could be a narcotic, so a painkiller, it could be a psychotropic med, so an anti-anxiety or depression medication, anything that has an addictive feature to it.” He says medicines now account for five of the top-ten substances involved in poisonings in Iowa, with pain medication ranked number-one.
The West Des Moines facility has three physicians and a nurse practitioner on staff who will be able to see up to 20 patients a day. Vasquez says if a patient is identified as needing addiction treatment, they’ll be referred to other facilities.
“We are not an addiction treatment center,” Vasquez says. “We’re a medical practice designed to help identify patients who may be on the verge of addiction or may be misusing or abusing their prescription and intervene to help get them back on a path to not having that medication in their daily life.”
The center has been operating for several weeks, seeing patients from across Iowa and into Nebraska, but it’s formally opening Wednesday. Vasquez says Iowa had four overdose deaths due to prescription painkillers in 2000 and by 2010, there had been 39 such deaths in the state.
Nationwide, an average of 40 people die each day from overdoses of prescription painkillers. He says this clinic is needed because the newest and fastest-growing form of substance abuse in Iowa involves prescription medicines, according to the Iowa Governor’s Office of Drug Control Policy.