Years ago, parents of teens kept a close eye on the liquor cabinet. Today, it’s the medicine cabinet that should be under lock and key.
Nearly 60 percent of teens say they can get prescription painkillers easily in the home.
Of the many painkillers on the market, OxyContin seems to be a favorite due to its high potency.
OxyContin is a brand name prescription originally created for cancer-type pain. The active ingredient, oxycodone, is a synthetic opiate that gives abusers a heroin-like rush.
The drug can be abused in four ways: crushed and then swallowed, snorted, free-base smoked, or diluted with water and injected.
Overdose of OxyContin causes respiratory arrest. In 2008, 51 people in San Diego County died of oxycodone-related deaths – three times the overdose rate for the prior year.
On the streets, OxyContin costs about $1 a milligram, or about $2,400 for a 30-day supply of 80 milligram pills.
Even at that price, many teens in San Diego County consider it their drug of choice. That’s one reason experts agree prescription drug abuse has reached epidemic proportions.
On October 19, the Oxy Task Force of San Diego County unveiled its media campaign, “Oxy Abuse Kills,” which includes a public education effort through public service announcements and posters. View the “Oxy Abuse Kills” PSA’s “Loaded” (http://bit.ly/1GcYtZ) and “Flashes” (http://bit.ly/4eKBC7) and the campaign posters (http://bit.ly/3nPUxm).
Keys officials involved include DEA Special Agent in Charge Ralph Partridge, District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, Sheriff Bill Gore and myself.
[See more Oxy Task Force of San Diego County pictures: http://bit.ly/RRttm]
The task force attacks the crisis through a comprehensive, 360-degree approach from four key areas: law enforcement, government policy, public education, and prevention and treatment.
Signs of abuse can be small. In the case of Poway’s James Joseph Wait, 22, he lost some weight, looked tired and his behavior was a bit off. Otherwise, his life as a business student at San Diego State University appeared unchanged.
After he died, his mother Virginia discovered text messages from a drug dealer, possession of drug paraphernalia and empty painkiller bottles in her medicine cabinet.
The Oxy Task Force of San Diego County called on every resident to bring unused prescriptions to the region’s first Operation Take Back last Saturday at the County Administrative Center, county courthouses in Vista, El Cajon and Chula Vista, and the Del Mar Fairgrounds.
The Sheriff’s Department tallied the results and in four hours, 161 vehicles dropped off 321.7 pounds of prescriptions. Of the locations, the Del Mar site collected the most – 89 pounds (Del Mar: http://bit.ly/412n3f ) followed by El Cajon with 76.7 pounds, Vista with 62 pounds, CAC with 60 pounds (CAC Pictures: http://bit.ly/jy62A) and Chula Vista with 34 pounds.
Based on this strong response, I can envision more such events to help reduce the easy access to potentially fatal drugs and help law enforcement stay in front of this problem.
Pam Slater-Price represents San Diego County’s Third District and is a member of the Oxy Task Force of San Diego County. Learn more: Facebook search “Oxy Task Force,” Twitter @OxyAbuseKills, or toll-free hotline (877) 662-6384.
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