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We spend a lot of time in this country focusing on how to curb the use of illegal drugs like cocaine, heroin and marijuana.

There is no doubt the illegal use of those drugs is a huge problem.

But it is high time we turn our focus to a different type of drug abuse; and that is the skyrocketing use of prescription drugs.

It’s happening quietly in our homes, on college campuses, in the military, on the streets and even among our sports heroes.

Prescription drug abuse is the nation’s fastest growing drug problem.

Most of the time it involves opiates, a strong pain killer consisting of opium.

Fifty-two million people in the US, over the age of 12, have used prescription drugs non-medically; meaning just for the high, or in the case of opiates, for the low.

I say low because opiates work by slowing down breathing and heart rate.

And if you mix them with other things that slow down your body like anti-anxiety drugs and alcohol, it can cause death just like it did with singer Whitney Houston.

In a series that premiers on CNN on Monday, Cynthia, a mother of 8 from Colorado says she took OxyContin for severe hip pain and became hooked in just two weeks.

When she confessed to her doctor just how much she was taking he told her she was ingesting enough for three adult men.

Cynthia is lucky because every 19 minutes someone dies of an accidental prescription drug overdose from an addiction that knows no age or ethnic bounds.

According to a recent Mayo Clinic study, nearly 70% of Americans are on at least one prescription drug, and more than half take two.

Twenty percent of patients are on five or more prescription medications.

And guess what the most popular prescriptions are? – Antibiotics, antidepressants and you guessed it, highly addictive painkilling opioids.

Here’s the problem.

Those opioids are expensive and over time the addiction is so strong that many turn to cheaper highs like heroin; thus the explosion of heroin use in the country.

The question is how do you stop the epidemic?

No one, not even medical and addiction professionals seem to have a good answer.

The sad reality is that the drugs meant to ease the pain and prolong life are now causing more pain and even death.

Make sure you watch the CNN series “Deadly Fix.”

It begins on Monday morning on CNN and runs the entire week.

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DON LEMON: Crack Is Whack But Now There’s Something Far Worse  was originally published on