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Prescription drug abuse on the rise

Alcohol-related cases no longer rank at the top of the list in the court system. Instead, they share that standing with prescription drug abuse cases and have done so the past two years.
‘It’s hard to statistically prove,’ Jeff Skaggs, probation officer for Harrison Superior Court. ‘The state changed the way it kept records.’
But a ‘hand count’ of charges involving alcohol, illicit drugs and controlled narcotics confirms what probation officers believe to be true. And no one age group is immune.
‘It’s pretty evenly distributed between the ages,’ Skaggs said.
Based on his involvement with the Harrison County Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition, experimentation with drugs now begins with middle school-age youth.
‘The students become desensitized by the time they get to their senior year,’ he said. ‘Kids have more choices as they get older. They believe they are bulletproof.’
One example he cited was ‘pharm’ parties, where attendees mix whatever prescription drugs they bring then ‘pop’ pills, often while drinking alcohol.
‘Youth often believe that, if the pills were prescribed to somebody, it must be safe,’ Skaggs said.
However, medication is prescribed for individual problems based on that person’s medical history.
Even then, it can lead to addiction problems, as one Harrison County woman in her mid-20s can attest.
Helen (who asked that her real name not be used) was prescribed pain pills when she was 15 for stomach problems. She also had disk problems she attributed to playing basketball.
‘After that, I wanted them for recreation,’ she said.
Medication prescriptions were received from a pain management clinic located outside of Harrison County.
A former honor-roll student, Helen’s grades dropped to D’s and F’s and she quit playing sports. Helen managed to graduate on time but ‘drugs made me do other things,’ including stealing medications prescribed to family members, she said.
Helen’s grandmother, who accompanied her to this interview, said she was initially in denial about her granddaughter stealing and taking illegal drugs.
‘I didn’t want to think she would do that,’ she said, adding that she also feared her granddaughter could end up in jail. ‘I didn’t like some of the people she hung around with … but I didn’t want her to think I was against her.’
Helen was caught receiving stolen property when she was 22, she said, and turned 23 while incarcerated.
After serving seven months in jail, Helen spent the next six months in the Bliss House, a halfway house for women. From there, she resided three months in another monitored environment. Now, Helen is employed and shares a house with another female who had a similar experience. She is also more than halfway through the two months of probation she received.
‘I never thought I needed help,’ Helen said, adding that jail time made her think about everything she had done. ‘My family tried to get me help, but I fought them. I did what I wanted. I wasn’t employed … Bliss House saved my life.’
The two also credit Harrison County Sheriff Rodney (Rod) Seelye’s efforts with Helen’s recovery once the young woman decided to change her life.
‘I feel like the man really cares,’ Helen’s grandmother said of the sheriff.
Helen added, ‘You can’t get help unless you want it yourself.’
She attributes part of her addiction to peer pressure and now avoids those whom she once considered friends.
‘We don’t have anything in common anymore,’ Helen said. ‘If I see them some place, I wave. I couldn’t have a conversation with them.’
Skaggs said Helen is one of the success stories.
‘Substance abuse is one of the hardest addictions to break,’ he said. ‘It’s an unfortunate lifestyle … Often, other people in the home may be using.’
There are resources available to help. Those include narcotics meetings at: Home Sweet Home at St. Paul’s AME Church, 434 E. High St., Corydon, Wednesdays at 7:30 p.m.; Home Sweet Home at Freed From Within, 700 W. Highway 62, Corydon, Thursdays, 8 p.m.; Surrender to Serenity, at The House of New Beginnings, 545 Floyd St., Corydon, Fridays, 7:30 p.m.; and Hope not Dope, at The Next Step, 105 Big Indian Road, Corydon, Saturdays, 8 p.m.
‘It’s important to have a support group,’ Skaggs said.
He also urged parents to keep medications locked up and to properly dispose of unused, unwanted medication at events such at Saturday’s Take-Back event at the Harrison County Sheriff’s Dept., Milltown Police Dept. and Indiana State Police posts (for more information, see sidebar at left). Unwanted prescriptions should not be flushed or crushed or hung on to.
Also, ‘parents need to make sure they have face-to-face time with their kids,’ Skaggs said. ‘Watch for changes in their behavior and grades … Prevention is still the key.’
Next ‘Drug Take-Back’ is Saturday
The Harrison County Sheriff’s Dept., Milltown Police Dept. and the Harrison County Substance Abuse Coalition have joined together to take part in the sixth nationwide ‘Prescription Drug Take-Back Day’ initiative sponsored by the Drug Enforcement Administration.
On Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., expired, unwanted or unused prescription drugs can be safely disposed of at the sheriff’s department in Corydon and the Milltown Police Dept. Also, all Indiana State Police posts, except the Toll Road, will also accept these prescription drugs. (No new or used needles will be accepted.) The sheriff’s department, as well as the Milltown Police Dept., have drop boxes to accept medications at other times in addition to scheduled Take-Back events.
This free service allows participants to remain anonymous with no questions asked.
During the five previous Take-Back events, the DEA, in conjunction with state, local and tribal law enforcement partners, have collected more than two million pounds (1,018 tons) of prescription medications.
The National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day aims to provide a safe, convenient and responsible means of disposal, while also educating the general public about the potential for abuse of these medications.