Health Beat

Health Beat: Tamper-proof pills fight addiction

MIAMI - They are prescribed by doctors for pain, but every day in the United States, people are dying due to opioid addiction.

"Nationwide last year, 33,000 deaths as a result of opioid overdoses," said David Scharf of the Broward County (Florida) sheriff's office.

Scott Kjelson knows what it's like to lose someone to an opioid addiction. His mom got hooked after she was prescribed pain pills.

"My mom was doctor shopping, and she found doctors literally that would say, 'Here's 90 Percocets,'" explained Kjelson, an assistant professor at Nova Southeastern University College of Pharmacy.

Experts say prescription drug abuse has become an epidemic in this country.

"It affects all people at all walks of life, from adolescents all the way up to the elderly and seniors," said Dr. David Mastropietro, an assistant professor at NSU.

Abusers usually crush the pills in order to snort or inject the drug to get high. That's why researchers at Nova Southeastern University have developed medications that deter that kind of abuse.

"So it's crush-resistant. It's like a PVC pipe. It's very resistant. It's very hard. It's very difficult to crush it into fine powder for snorting," said Dr. Hamid Omidian, a professor of pharmaceutical sciences at NSU.

And if abusers try to liquefy the pill, it turns into a solid gel.

"It's going to be impossible for an abuser to draw that solution into a syringe and then inject it," Omidian continued.

But if taken orally, as intended, the technology doesn't lessen the effectiveness of the medication.

"If the physicians had a deterrent medication, they would be alert to what to educate their patients on," Kjelson said.

Kjelson said he wishes this type of technology was available when his mother was alive. Now, he has only his memories.

"I hope I can prevent other families from going through what I went through," Kjelson explained.

Researchers at NSU hope that the pharmaceutical manufacturers will be licensing their abuse-deterrent technologies once the FDA starts mandating abuse-deterrent medications.

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