OPINION COLUMNS

Dearly beloved, we have a pill problem

By Brian Knox | Published Saturday, May 7, 2016
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The sudden death of pop/rock icon Prince a couple of weeks ago has once again put one of our country’s greatest addictions back in the spotlight: prescription drugs.

While the autopsy and toxicology reports have not yet been released, it has been widely reported that Prince was likely addicted to some sort of pain killer, possibly Percocet, to deal with the pain associated with his physical performances on stage.

If that is the case, Prince will join a long list of celebrities who have died from overdoses, not from illegal drugs like cocaine, heroin or methamphetamine, but legal opioids.

For many of us who grew up in the 1980s and the “Just Say No” campaign, we saw images of those illegal drugs. Our image of a drug dealer was someone lurking in dark alleys, whispering from the shadows to come try something that would make us feel good.

I can’t remember anyone talking about prescription drugs.

And yet, prescription drugs now kill thousands of people in this country every year.

According to sobering numbers from the Centers for Disease Control, opioids killed more than 28,000 people in 2014, the most ever in a single year. At least half of all opioid overdose deaths involve a prescription opioid, the CDC said.

Perhaps we have trouble recognizing the problem because we don’t assign the same social stigma to prescription drugs. Most of us know people who use pain killers such as Vicodin or Percocet to manage pain, perhaps after a major surgery. You may have used those drugs yourself at one time or another.

Those people you are thinking of, even yourself, are the very type of people who often get hooked on prescription drugs.

Now, if I asked you to think of what your typical cocaine or methamphetamine user looks like, I imagine you might picture someone very different.

In the end, addiction is addiction. And legal or not, if you push it too far, it will ruin your life or worse yet, take it.

While we often hear of prescription drug addictions affecting celebrities, it is far from a problem for just the rich and famous.

It’s not a secret that methamphetamine has historically been a big problem in Wise County, and it still is. But being on the crime beat, I have noticed an increase in prescription drugs being seized by officers and people being arrested and convicted for illegal possession of prescription drugs.

In fact, we’ve got a story in this issue I wrote where prescription drugs were among the items seized during a recent traffic stop in Bridgeport.

Bridgeport Police Chief Steve Stanford has certainly seen the problem of prescription drug abuse locally.

“We have experienced an increase in prescription medication abuse and distribution by our youth and adults,” he said. “During a recent investigation, one of our local students told officers that kids believe prescribed medications are safer than illicit narcotics.”

One of the biggest problems, he said, was the accessibility of prescription drugs. In most cases, it just takes a trip to the medicine cabinet of a family member.

Beginning June 1, the Bridgeport Police Department will begin a Prescription Drug Take Back program as part of an initiative aimed at reducing the amount of illegal prescription drugs in the Bridgeport community.

A permanent prescription and over-the-counter drug take-back box will be available in the police department’s lobby.

Bridgeport PD is partnering with local pharmacies, including Brookshires Pharmacy, Valu-Rite Pharmacy and Gail’s Pharmacy on the project.

“We are asking all parents and grandparents to please take the time to clean out drug cabinets and bring their expired or unused medications to us – no questions asked,” Stanford said.

He offered the following things to keep in mind about prescription drugs being brought in:

  • It is illegal to transport prescription pills unless in their original bottle.
  • Needles, sharps, inhalers and liquids will not be accepted.
  • There will be plastic bags available to place unused pills in before depositing into the designated bin.

Current prescription medication should be locked in a safe or other secure location, Stanford said.

Like any epidemic, the problem of prescription drug abuse won’t be solved overnight.

But perhaps if we note the problem and take advantage of programs like the one being started in Bridgeport, it might allow a few more people to get through this thing called life.

Brian Knox is the Messenger’s special projects manager.

One Response to “Dearly beloved, we have a pill problem”

  1. Rusty White says:

    Brian, well done!

    “BUT” there is some reality missing in your story. Years back I warned of a problem that was sadly created by our well meaning agendas and blind policies.

    Remember when our kids were dying from using “Cheeze” in the metro-plex? The truth came out that the kids were taking this mixture of heroin and Tylenol because of the policies and forced drug tests to keep them away from marijuana. Just like many kids and adults today, they were forced away from a plant that has “NEVER” in the recorded history of this planet ever caused a death due to an over dose. They went to legal and illegal drugs that are not bulky, smelly, nor do they stay in their urine up to 90 days, fact! While they can take a UA in 3 days and not face any punishment, they traded their futures in doing so, and our well meaning policies and enforcement played a LARGE roll in this problem!

    Sadly they are now becoming addicted and dying, what parent or family member would not rather be disciplining a child or counseling a loved one over the use of a plant, rather than putting flowers on their graves???

    I invite every parent, citizen and tax payer to http://www.leap.cc Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. There has to be a better way, help us find it!!!

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