Prescription drugs may appear harmless when prescribed by a doctor, but they are harmful and sometimes fatal if and when they are abused. The Drug Alcohol Reduction Team (D.A.R.T.) held a Town Hall Meeting and open forum to discuss this topic on Monday, April 8.
The meeting was lead by a panel of six, which included; Troy R-III Superintendent Mark Penny, Milli Palmer of Preferred Family Healthcare, Chad Sabora from STL Heroin Help, Mike Dach from the Lincoln County Medical Center, Raymond Floyd of the Narcotic Enforcement Team (NET), and Jared Opsal from the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse (NCADA).
The meeting started with superintendent Mark Penny paying honor and tribute to former superintendent Dr. Terry Morrow, who helped bring D.A.R.T. to Lincoln County. A moment of silence was observed in his memory.
The first speaker of the night was Chad Sabora who talked about his battle with heroin. He let everyone in attendance know that drug addiction is first and foremost a disease, and has to be treated as such. Chad has been clean for two years and still has to fight his disease everyday. He also informed the group that prescription drugs are fast becoming gateway drugs and talked about how prescription drugs eventually led him to using heroin. “Anybody can be an addict,” Chad said and he should know, because before heroin addiction ruined his life he was lawyer living in a million dollar home in a suburb of Chicago. Chad also noted a statistic which shows the largest rise in heroin use over the past few years is in females between the ages of 16 to 19 living in affluent neighborhoods.
Jared Opsal was the next member of the panel to speak. He talked about the alarming rise of deaths due to opioid overdose. Noting that overdoses due to this type of drug have increased three to four times over the passed 10 years resulting in 1,353 deaths in the last five years. He also brought up pharming-a method used by many young people looking for drugs. Pharming is the act of a user going into a medicine cabinet in search of prescription drugs for recreational use. He also said that the conception of a heroin junky in an alley shooting up with a needle is no longer true. This is due to the fact that new forms of heroin are being produced in pill form making it easier for users to make the transition from prescription drugs to heroin.
Raymond Floyd spoke of his involvement with the Narcotics Enforcement Team (NET) and their efforts to stop the illegal use of prescription drugs. He talked about how only 13 percent of drug related arrests were from prescription drugs in 2010 and how that number had increased to 18 percent by 2012. He also urged everyone to participate in National Take Back Day on April 27 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Local stores that will participate are Walgreens and The Medicine Shoppe. These stores will take any unused prescription drugs and dispose of them in a safe manner. Floyd would also like to see people lock up unused drugs that they do not want to dispose of in order to keep them away from people who may abuse them.
Milli Palmer gave, perhaps, some of the most shocking information. She showed a recent survey taken in Lincoln County that showed high school senior girls were more likely to abuse prescription drugs than their male peers. She also showed most children between the ages of 12 and 13 had already been exposed to prescription drugs.
Mike Dach talked about the alarming amount of individuals coming into the emergency room complaining of chronic pain and looking for prescription drugs. Many of these individuals when tested have negative results for drugs in their system. These individuals are simply trying to get the drugs in order to sell them for profit on the ever growing prescription drug market.
Everyone in attendance was welcome to participate in the question and answer portion of the meeting that immediately followed. The members of the panel were very knowledgeable and helpful when it came to answering the public’s questions. All who were involved left full of information about our growing problem with prescription drugs and perhaps more open minded and less judgmental on how we can help those who have dealt with this terrible disease that is drug addiction.