During my careers with the Cincinnati Police and the Warren County Drug Task Force, I was occasionally reminded that law-enforcement officers are not immune to addiction, including addiction to prescription drugs. My office arrested several of its own officers and their relatives, usually spouses.
Contrary to the belief of some individuals, my office did not treat these drug abusers differently than other offenders. In fact, many former police officers in our country have lost their jobs for not reporting their addiction or asking for assistance before being caught. I firmly believe that individuals who are entrusted with enforcing laws should lose their jobs if they are convicted of a felony.
A common problem is that police officers are prone to job-related injuries and prescribed pain medication, resulting in drug dependence or addiction. These officers often do not realize they have a problem because as the pain from their injury subsides, they begin to crave the good feeling the pain killer provided.
Dependence and addiction become more problematic for law-enforcement officers because they carry firearms and may be required to make life-or-death decisions, on, or even, off duty. Therefore, impairment of an officer’s judgement, due to drug abuse, is unacceptable.
In response to this problem, a new endeavor was initiated to help law-enforcement officers realize that they can become addicted to medications prescribed by their health care provider and dispensed by their trusted pharmacist. I was fortunate to be invited to help develop an online course with the goal of reducing this problem and saving lives.
One of my long-time partners in drug abuse reduction is a Columbus-based company called Working Partners (workingpartners. com), whose very energetic and creative staff jumped at the opportunity to help solve addiction problems among police officers. Working Partners partnered with Cardinal Health Foundation, a longtime supporter of education on the prevention of prescription drug misuse. This led the Ohio State University College of Pharmacy and Cardinal Health Foundation to create a free, public education program called Generation Rx (generationrx.org), which aims to educate people in all age groups about the potential dangers of misusing prescription drugs. Pharmacists nationwide have championed Generation Rx since its inception, and it is exciting to see how the program is reaching law-enforcement officers.
Cardinal Health Foundation supported the team’s idea for an educational program specifically for lawenforcement officers, and provided most of the funding for the project. Other participants included the Ohio Task Force Commanders Association, which secured a grant through the Ohio Office of Criminal Justice Services. The Ohio Attorney General completed the list of donors and put the educational program on the 2016 agenda for all Ohio law-enforcement officers.
The program, entitled “Dose of Reality,” consists of 5 videos that could be played at a police roll call (OhioAttorneyGeneral. gov/eOPOTACourses). The videos depict common scenarios in which officers and their families are affected by the misuse of medications. This includes an officer’s work injury, treatment with pain medications, inability to stop taking them, and the resulting problems. Scenarios including benzodiazepines and sleep medications are also included. This program is distributed through the Ohio Attorney General’s online training programs for law-enforcement officers. Viewing “Dose of Reality” may become mandatory for officers in order for them to receive certain benefits.
Everyone involved in this program hopes it can be replicated nationally. We are working on expanding this program to willing states, with the hope of helping officers in all 50 states.
A final thought for retail pharmacists is that law-enforcement officers, and their family members, who are patients may be abusing medications, so do not hesitate to scrutinize their refill requests as you would for other patients. Your vigilance may save a career, or even a life.