Prescription Drug Abuse Growing in Northeast Ohio

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CLEVELAND -- It is the new way to become a drug addict: follow doctors' orders.

Experts say Ohio is in the middle of a prescription pill epidemic. In fact, the number of people dying from overdoses now exceeds those of heroin and cocaine combined.

"Raise your hand if your dependency started for treatment of a medical condition," asks Judge David Matia at the start of Cuyahoga County's weekly drug court.

Ten hands go up, including the hand of Crystal Manlet.

Manlet, a nurse, was in a horrible car accident that crushed part of her spine. She was in incredible pain, and the doctors were trying to ease that pain.

"They prescribed percocets, then they put me an oxycontin, and I slowly progressed to getting caught on opiates by them prescribing me oxycontin," she tells Judge Matia in open court.

Crystal, a registered nurse, says she felt trapped by the pain.

"I didn't want to use the drugs," she says, "but I couldn't manage without them."

Doctors are now prescribing almost 10 times more opiates, opium-based pain killers such as Oxycontin, then they did just 15 years ago, according to state pharmacy records.

"It just corresponds to the rise in opiate dependency cases we've seen in the courts," says Judge Matia.

Crystal is now in the middle of a drug court treatment program.

If she completes it, her record will be cleared, and she may be able to go back to nursing.

"If I didn't have this chance with drug court," she says, "I would be dead right now."

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