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SPECIAL REPORT: Prescription addiction - KOAM TV 7

SPECIAL REPORT: Prescription addiction

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It is estimated that nearly 30,000 Americans will die from prescription drug abuse and overdoes this year - cocaine and heroin combined.  And it will kill more people than car accidents.

The number of deaths from painkillers quadrupled nationwide since 1999.  That's according to numbers provided by the National Drug Control Policy of the White House.

An advisory panel to Food and Drug Administration voted to toughen the restrictions on pain killers at the end of last month.

The Four States certainly aren't immune to the issue.  In fact, living so close to state borders actually gives prescription drug abusers an edge.

They're called pill seekers, patients who might go to different doctors in different states to feed their dangerous and often deadly addiction.

Roy Morgan is a Vietnam veteran who has also fought battles with cancer and prescription pill addiction. He spends Friday nights leading a recovery group in Grove, Oklahoma.

"Friday is the hardest night to make it on but the best night for recovery," says Morgan.  "Prescription drugs, in my opinion, are the easiest to fall into addiction with because you think they are ok, doctor says go for it, but then you get to doing them and doing them and I guess you feel at ease so much, the way I did, and I was doing so many of them I didn't know what they were doing to me."

Morgan says he saw four different doctors across state lines in Arkansas, took over 28 prescribed pills a day and eventually became addicted.

"Doctor shopping so to speak, or going from doctor to doctor to doctor, that always raises red flags," says Dr. Aunna Herbst, a family doctor in Grove.  "The close proximity of our states makes it very easy.  I can be over in Arkansas in 50 minutes.  I can be in Missouri in 50 minutes.  As, and unfortunately the doctors and pharmacies aren't able to communicate because they don't have an interconnected website."

Multiple doctors and the ease of prescriptions is a large part of the problem, something the Food and Drug Administration may soon try to restrict in the U.S.

"I've had many overdoses in the hospital, as a hospital physician, yeah, I think regulation is probably a really good idea," says Dr. Herbst.

Oklahoma has a statewide network that alerts health officials to patients prescription history, but currently that information is not shared between states. New proposed FDA restrictions would ban refills without a new prescription as well as those prescribed by phone or FAX.

Even with restrictions, Morgan knows more than most the difficultly addicts face, which is why he says he will continue to use his story to help others with their disease.

"Whenever God starts working in your life, the devil starts working just as hard," says Morgan.

Potentially deadly doses of medicine can be found in almost any home.  That easy access can easily become an addiction.

Every day in the United States 2,500 twelve to seventeen year olds abuse a prescription pain pill for the first time.

Thomas Piguet says he was a good kid from a good home when he decided to try his father's prescribed Percocet at 17 years old.  A year and a half later Piquet went from a stolen pill to a full blown addiction.

"Immediately, it had some kind of click with me, that this made me feel confidant, it just really rose me up," says Piquet.  "I just met connections, met people who did have prescriptions, who just wanted the money, and that's pretty much the way it worked."

According to Piquet he was buying pills for $5 a pop and he says he wasn't just buying one.

"I'd go straight to the refrigerator, pour a glass of milk, toss four of them in my mouth, and take a drink," says Piquet.  "That's how I started my day.  That's the first thing I did before anything got in my stomach or anything."

It's a story that is in line with many young people across the nation.

"Primarily the ages of 18 to 25 is the huge grouping of youth that are abusing prescription and over the counter drugs," says Crystal Ludiker, the Director of Newton County Drug Free Communities.

According to Ludiker. kids are using as young as twelve and parents are setting the example.

"If you see your parents taking medications every day, you know, we are a pill popping society and so it really starts to reduce that stigma and perception of risk," says Ludiker.

It's something Dereck Price, the resource officer for the Neosho School District, sees first hand.

"They are so accessible, you can go into your mom's or your grandmom's medicine cabinet any time and get whatever," says Price.

Piquet says he took up to eight pills a days and it wasn't until he was arrested that he finally got help.  He says it is the accessibility of the drug that makes it so easy for kids to become hooked.

"For people to leave them laying around, especially if they aren't going to take them, if you aren't going to take them, you ought to get rid of them, especially if you've got children around," says Piquet.

He says keeping pills out of sight would it keep it out of the mind for most young people today.

Many local police stations in the Four States now have a permanent drop off box for unused prescription pills.  Call your local police department to see if there is one in your town.

If you think your child might be abusing prescription drugs or for more information visit Prescription Drug Abuse information.

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