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By Steven Reinberg
TUESDAY, February 11, 2020 (HealthDay News) – In another sign of how worse the opioid abuse epidemic in the United States has been, a new study shows family members often steal painkillers from dying relatives in hospice care.
In a survey of 371 hospice, 31% reported at least one case in which the drug was taken from a patient in the last 90 days. The thieves are usually relatives.
Lead researcher John Cagle said it was unclear whether drug users were addicted, had financial difficulties, or both, although he thought that was the case. No problem, it is cruel to use medication that the patient dies to control pain, he said.
"Where the drugs come from patients, those patients are probably suffering," said Cagle, associate professor of social work at the University of Maryland in Baltimore.
He added that the "drug suspicion" issue could be larger than these figures suggest.
The majority of reported burglaries take place in small facilities, and when patients are housed in hospice, the researchers found.
The most frequent culprits were caretakers (39%), other relatives (38%) or patients (34%), the findings show.
Doctors are taking steps to limit drug suspicion, Mr. Cagle said. They are storing drugs in locked boxes, counting drugs and looking for other ways to monitor opioid use.
But Cagle feared that …