Expert: Prescription drug abuse linked to overdose increase

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(Source: KPHO/KTVK) (Source: KPHO/KTVK)
(Source: KPHO/KTVK) (Source: KPHO/KTVK)
(Source: KPHO/KTVK) (Source: KPHO/KTVK)
MESA, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -

Burglars broke into the Melrose Pharmacy in Phoenix early Tuesday morning, stealing the entire inventory of cough syrup. While concerning on its own, one addiction expert says it’s more evidence of a record trend of overdoses.

[READ: 2 burglars smash their way into Melrose Pharmacy in Phoenix]

“When people are using [drugs] in addiction, they're trying to numb the pain, or they're trying to numb those feelings and they don't know how,” said Gordie Bufton, a recovering addict who now speaks to groups about addiction and helps people kick their drug habits.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported there were 47,055 overdose deaths in 2014. That’s up about 5,000 from the year before and an increase of nearly 70 percent from 15 years ago.

“Part of the reason why overdoses are up so much is because of prescription drugs. People are getting prescribed prescription drugs and they're getting addicted to prescription drugs,” Bufton said. 

“Someone had to have been using it for something else or to create a different kind of drug,” Bufton said of Tuesday's burglary. 

Mixing cough syrup with alcohol and other drugs has been popular with teens over the last seven years. The trend has been fueled partly by rap music, glorifying cough syrup abuse.

“It really creates a subdued effect similar to smoking marijuana,” Bufton said. 

Bufton said the question is not why so many people are abusing drugs but why they're in so much pain to begin with.

“It's OK to experience pain. It's OK to experience the heartache of life. And in this society it's very easy - oh, take this pill and this will solve the problem,” he said.

Phoenix police are still looking for the two people who burglarized the pharmacy.

Copyright 2015 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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