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Prescription Drug Abuse On The Rise In San Diego

Above: Nearly 20 percent of 11th-graders in San Diego County say they’ve experimented with prescription drugs.

Monday, November 4, 2013

By Kenny Goldberg

Prescription drug abuse continues to take a toll in San Diego County and a new report cardreveals some alarming trends during the last five years. 

Aired 11/4/13 on KPBS News.

A new report reveals an increasing number of San Diegans continue to abuse prescription drugs and heroin.

It comes from the San Diego County Prescription Drug Abuse Task Force. The report card tracks nine different indicators of the problem from 2008 to 2012.

During that time, deaths from prescription drug overdoses have increased sharply. So have prescription drug-related visits to hospital emergency departments.

The primary drugs of abuse have been narcotic painkillers like Oxycontin and Vicodin. 

But almost 1 in 4 people in county-funded treatment programs say it’s not prescription drugs, but heroin that’s their drug of choice. 

Bill Sherman, special agent in charge of the San Diego office of the Drug Enforcement Administration, said the rise in heroin use is alarming.

“We are starting to see this correlation from people shifting from prescription drugs, as they’ve clamped down on some of the formulation of the Oxycontin and other stuff, it’s becoming more available and cheaper to use heroin," Sherman said. "And we’re keeping an eye on it. We’re very, very concerned about it.”

Another area of concern is abuse among young people.

Nearly 20 percent of 11th-graders in San Diego County say they’ve experimented with prescription drugs. 

Sherrie Rubin’s son Aaron overdosed on a combination of painkillers, anti-depressants and alcohol a few years ago.

He survived, but suffered permanent brain damage. Rubin said he needs 24-hour care. 

“I thought because I didn’t have drugs in my home, and because I didn’t use drugs or have that lifestyle, that would be enough to protect my children, and certainly it’s not," Rubin said.

The Centers for Disease Control says prescription drug abuse is the nation’s fastest growing drug problem.



KENNY GOLDBERG, Health Reporter | Contact | Follow @kghealth 

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