Alamance County, NC -- Doctors and researchers have made great strides in pain management but one of their latest tools is not only making it's way to patients but also into the hands of illegal drug dealers.
The CDC says Opana, a powerful painkiller, is now being abused at an epidemic rate.
The drug hit the market two years ago and is not as well known but much stronger than Oxycontin.
Doctors prescribe it for moderate to severe pain. That makes it very appealing to illegal drug dealers.
"It's extremely powerful so that causes a lot of concern if it falls into the wrong hands out here. Being spread, in particular, to our young people," said Randy Jones with the Alamance County Sheriff's Department. "This leads to a whole series of crime-type of activities. We've found drug use and drug abuse tied to robberies, to larceny, burglaries, things of that nature. Sometimes crimes of violence."
The Centers for Disease Control says painkillers like Opana were responsible for 1.3 million emergency room visits in 2010.
That was a 115% increase from 2004. So far, the biggest problems with Opana has been in New York, Kentucky and Indiana.