Prescription Medication and Drug Abuse in NJ – What You Should Know [AUDIO]
Jim spoke about this topic at great length yesterday (7/11). It started out as a discussion on the drug problem in NJ and morphed into a “what you need to know” segment regarding prescription medication.
The entire segment started yesterday with Jim discussing the plight of a caller named Linda, who has frequented the show. Linda has a son who has been in trouble in the past due a bad dug problem and actually got assistance for her son by calling in to Jim’s show and the Ask the Governor program.
The following is the audio of Jim beginning the discussion:
Right after Jim started discussing the topic, Linda called in to give an update on her son and the feedback she has received from other parents since reaching out for assistance for her son.
You can listen to Linda’s segment with Jim below.
Jim went on after the discussion with Linda to discuss the addiction so many have to prescription drugs. Below are some articles to educate yourself about prescription meds and places where you can drop off expired or unwanted medication locally in NJ.
This is Roxy. As you know she is our mascot. Roxy was sent to us from heaven.
Justin always wanted a bulldog named Rocco. He would talk about this dog and how much he loved it when in fact, he never had it. Well. I made a promise to Justin that I would get a bullie for him. So in September of 2011, Dan Justin’s oldest brother, worked in a pet store. He called me and said that they had a bullie that they were placing up for adoption because of some surgery that was needed and that we could have it. WOW!!! I almost fell on the floor. This didnt happen! A bulldog for free? Crazy enough, this cute little bullie was around in May of 2011. Dan actually sent Justin pictures of her showing her how adorable she was. For some reason, nobody bought her!!! This almost never happens with these dogs. But in this case it did. Why you ask? Well because she was waiting to come to us. So with a little help, from heaven and her angel, Justin, Roxy has joined our family. Its not a Rocco, but Roxy will do.
Every summer since I can remember, my husband’s family has gathered at the New Jersey shore, where he and his three siblings grew up. All together, we were a group of eighteen, ten adults and eight cousins. These yearly reunions were a wonderful time for the kids to reconnect after the long school year. There was nothing quite as beautiful as watching them ride the waves together. The picture to the right, taken in July 2010, shows the smiling faces of cousin Bobby (16, from Houston, TX) and cousin Justin (20, from Freehold, NJ).
The two boys couldn’t have been more different. Justin was outgoing and boisterous, and had the ability to captivate an entire room with his big personality, humor and generosity. When he was in high school, Justin was a state-ranked weight lifter, an all-county football player and captain of the football team. Bobby, on the other hand, was a quiet observer with tremendous wit and charm. He was a gifted academic with a scientific mind, likely of genius intelligence, earning a nearly perfect grade point average as well as a nearly perfect SAT and advanced SAT scores.
Yet, despite their differences, they had one thing in common: An addiction to prescription medications that ultimately resulted in their deaths. Justin was 21 years old when he died. Bobby was just 17.
Justin started using marijuana when he was 14. By the time he was a senior in high school, he also started to use prescription pain medications recreationally. Once in college, his recreational use turned to addiction, and after one semester, he failed out and returned home. His parents had absolutely no idea that he was using prescription pills and thought his return was because he was home sick. In 2009, while attending community college, Justin ‘totaled’ his car. Admitting marijuana abuse, Justin wanted help so in 2010, his parents found him intensive outpatient treatment. But then in 2011, expensive items in the house went missing, yet the theft was a mystery. Justin’s parents did not learn of his addiction to prescription medications and heroin until he was stopped for a traffic violation and police found a needle and a pill in his car. Justin willingly entered a 30-day rehab program and soon thereafter, moved to a sober living facility. On July 13th, 2011, just days after a family gathering, Justin was found dead in a hotel room; the cause of death was drug overdose.
Bobby’s path to addiction was the same as Justin’s. He too started using marijuana heavily when he was 14. At 15, his recreational drug use escalated significantly. His mother’s pain medication, prescribed as part of her breast cancer treatment, went missing. Initial thoughts of Bobby’s involvement in the theft were disregarded, as it seemed preposterous that this high-achieving student would take drugs. Despite the lock that was then used to safeguard the medication, it continued to disappear. Bobby’s mother lost her 9-year battle with cancer on March 1, 2011, just three months prior to Justin’s death. Bobby, now 17, vowed to use his gifted mind to help find a cure for the deadly disease that took his mother so early.
In late October 2011, my husband and I went to Houston to visit with the family. During our stay, Bobby and I planned to work together to finalize his college application; he had his heart set on Princeton. Just moments after we arrived, my brother-in-law informed us that Bobby had recently confessed to being a prescription drug addict and asked for help. He had recently stolen $8K from his dad’s account to buy medications on-line; but now that the money was gone, he was out of options. We were stunned and devastated to say the least.
We had no idea what to do. Justin’s father, Bobby’s uncle in New Jersey, begged us to take him to the hospital or call the police, as he wished he would have done for his son. Bobby refused to go to the hospital and foolishly, we worried that a police record could interfere with college acceptance. Instead, we took him for an evaluation at an out-patient rehab center. The evaluation took half the day. Because of HIPPA laws, the addiction specialist could not tell us what she learned from Bobby about his use, but did tell us that he was one of the heaviest users she had ever encountered and was already far down the road of addiction. He would need, at minimum, 30-day residential (in-patient) treatment.
Although Bobby told us he was an addict, we had absolutely no idea how serious the problem was until that moment. Yes, in retrospect, there were signs of drug abuse that we attributed to teen behavior, but it was impossible to reconcile this expert opinion with the person we thought we knew. Unlike Justin, whose world fell apart because of addiction, Bobby was functioning almost as usual.
By 8pm that evening, we completed all the paper work for his admission to the residential facility which was to take place at 8am the next day. Tragically, Bobby didn’t make it through those 12 hours.
On October 25th, at 6am, his sister and I found him dead in his bed. He took heaping doses of some of his father’s accessible medication and sent a text to a friend. He couldn’t imagine loving anything more than his drugs. Bobby died just a little over three months after Justin.
These young deaths have devastated and forever-altered every member in our family as well as members of Justin’s New Jersey community, Bobby’s Texas community and our own community here in Maryland. Prior to these events, I had absolutely no idea that prescription drug abuse was an epidemic in our country. Even though I have a master’s degree in Public Health from Johns Hopkins and worked in psychiatric drug development for over 10 years, I had no understanding of the dangers of prescription drugs, how addictive they are, and how, even with one dose, they can kill. I had no comprehension of how different and dangerous the ‘drug landscape’ is today as compared to when I was a teenager in the 80s.
In an effort to help save other families and communities from this horror, I am committed to raising awareness among both adults and children, because knowledge is the best form of prevention. I now know that prescription drug abuse is everyone’s problem because it doesn’t discriminate by race or socioeconomic status; everyone is at risk. I work voluntarily as a Parent Partner with The Partnership at Drugfree.org, a national non-profit organization whose mission is to help solve the problem of teen substance abuse. As a Parent Partner, I have access to scientific information, educational programs, and professional assistance. Please help me honor Justin and Bobby by allowing me to share these resources with you.
Parents still don’t get it. Kids will use these drugs to keep them up to study and get through finals. I remember back in the day, they used caffeine pills. Adderall and Ritalin are not caffeine pills. They are more dangerous and addicting when not used properly!!
Not MyKid: Most Parents Unaware Teen Using Study Drugs
Many parents are not aware that their teenage children abuse “study
drugs,” a new poll suggests.
In the poll, just 1 percent of parents said their teenage children had taken drugs such as Adderall or Ritalin without a prescription.
That is much lower than the percentage of teens that surveys suggest are using the drugs. For example, a 2012 study of high schoolers found that about 10 percent of sophomores and 12 percent of seniors said they had used the drugs without a prescription.
The new finding highlights the growing issue of stimulant drug abuse, or when teens take stimulant medication (or “study drugs”) to help them study for a test or stay awake to do homework. Such medications are prescribed for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Teens without the condition may fake symptoms in order to get a prescription, or obtain the drugs from friends.
The new findings, from the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health, examined parents’ awareness of the issue, surveying parents of U.S. children ages 13 to 17. About 11 percent of parents said their teens had been prescribed stimulant medication for ADHD.
Among parents of children who were not prescribed ADHD medications, 1 percent said their teens had used these drugs for study purposes. About 4 percent said they didn’t know if their teen had abused these drugs, and 95 percent said their teens had never abused the drugs.
This disconnect between teen drug abuse and parents’ awareness of drug abuse may be in part due to the fact that study drugs have more subtle effects than drugs such as heroin and cocaine, allowing teens to more easily hide their drug use, the researchers said.
About half of parents polled said they were very concerned about teens in their communities abusing study drugs. And more than three-quarters supported school policies aimed at stopping this type of drug abuse, such as rules that would require children with prescription ADHD medications to keep the pills in a secure place like the school nurse’s office.
The findings “underscore the need for greater communication among public health officials, schools, parents, and teens regarding this issue,” the researchers said.
Almost two years ago my wife and I became aware that our 22-year-old son, William, was using heroin. At the time he was already seeing a psychotherapist. Over the next two years we added an addiction psychiatrist, out-patient treatment, treatment with Suboxone, in-patient detox, in-patient treatment, out-patient treatment, out-patient detox, treatment with Vivitrol, more out-patient treatment, another in-patient treatment, more out-patient treatment, a revolving door of well over a dozen trips to and from the emergency rooms of at least four different hospitals, an attempt to work with another addiction psychiatrist, Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and a home life fraught with tension, despair, sometimes hopeful during intermittent periods of sobriety, and always filled with the apprehension of misfortune.
That apprehension became fact when William accidentally overdosed shortly before his 24th birthday. Six weeks of comatose and/or heavily medicated hospitalization followed before the ultimate realization that William was consigned to a persistent vegetative state.
As family members, we struggled from the beginning to find both our own support system and ways to engage and encourage William in recovery. In the beginning we kept William’s and our battle to ourselves, in the interest of protecting his privacy and ours. He still had career goals and ambitions that could be thwarted with heroin use on his “résumé.” While it’s harder to admit, we also kept quiet out of some sense of embarrassment or shame. How could we possibly explain the corrosion in the midst of our well-reared, respectable family?
Over the course of time, with the help of addiction counselors, and sharing our circumstance at Al-Anon in particular, we came to understand that we were not alone. There were, in fact, many families like us, negotiating their response to addiction: discovering what they were powerless over, battling for the courage to confront what they could control. And, at least in our case, fighting desperately to distinguish between the two. There was and is relief in knowing that others suffer the same struggle, zigzagging along a tortuous path, enduring dead ends in hope of a solution, bravely putting in the work to realize a more promising and serene future. And yet, their stories and ours remained anonymous, pit stops at an emotional leper colony, quite separate from a world racing on.
Bit by bit, perhaps because we had to explain to neighbors why EMS was arriving at our door with some regularity, or why we suddenly had to cancel plans, or as we sought solace in narrating our sad situation to trusted friends, we began to experience a recurring phenomenon. People would recount their own harrowing tales of a family member, a dear friend, or even their personal contest with addiction.
Out of choice and necessity, as we surrendered to his lot and ours, when we chose to remove William from life support, we offered his story to virtually everyone we knew in the days just prior to his death and in the interim before his memorial service. In return, more and more people surrendered their personal horrors to us. From even the most reserved and private came narratives of heroin overdoses, cocaine abuse, weeks and months in rehab, alcohol relapse, addiction to pills.
Addiction is, as we have learned, a family disease. The number of stories we’ve heard of wives, daughters, fathers, sons, nieces, nephews, brothers and sisters – not in counseling or therapy scenarios, but from people who recognize our pain and somehow want to comfort us, or to comfort themselves through us, is staggering.
We were heartened at William’s memorial service by an overwhelming turnout to honor a beautiful young man and to console his family. I knew when I gave a eulogy for William that there were addicts in varying stages of recovery among us. Fellow sufferers there to pay tribute. Perhaps hearing about William’s struggle and our ordeal was useful to them. I hope so. What I do not know, and can only wonder about, is how many more stories remain untold. They need to be told. Secrecy and anonymity are part of the disease, for addict and family alike.
The real stories need to be heard throughout our counties and states. In order for this epidemic to start, we must begin in our own backyards. We must share our true stories on who this is effecting and what we can do to help protect our kids. If we all just do a little with awareness, prevention, safeguarding, we can and will make a difference!!
No Sugar-Coating the Devastation of Illicit Drugs
Posted on May 15, 2013 at 11:34 am
Heroin Task Force presents first public forum on prescription drug abuse
The heart-wrenching story of a school principal who lost his son to drugs and the first-person story of a woman’s heroin addiction gripped the attention of parents attending the first Community Forum on Prescription Drug Abuse presented by the Delaware County Heroin Task Force.
About 50 people attended the forum, presented May 9 at the Upper Darby Performing Arts Center at Upper Darby High School. Headed by Delaware County Council and District Attorney Jack Whelan, the Heroin Task Force was formed in September, 2012, to raise awareness about the prescription drug and heroin epidemic impacting the nation and the county.
“This can happen to any good child and any A-plus student who has a great group of friends and comes from a great family,” cautioned Dr. Richard Dunlap, whose son, Tim, lost his battle with addition in 2009. “Tim was a good kid, who made poor decisions.”
The forum was offered by the Heroin Task Force to educate the public on this growing epidemic. Members of the panel included District Attorney Whelan, Dr. Dunlap, Delaware County Council members Mario J. Civera Jr. and Dave White, Executive Director Marianne Grace, Upper Darby Police Superintendent Mike Chitwood and Upper Darby Assistant Superintendent Daniel McGarry.
Panelists said it is becoming all too common that students, beginning in middle school, are using drugs. The problem often begins when a child or teen finds prescription drugs in their home which are no longer being used by a parent, sibling or relative. These prescription drugs are often pain killers such as Percocet and Vicodin.
Last year in Delaware County, there were 50 heroin-related deaths and a total of 119 drug-related deaths.
“This is a story we hear all too often in the District Attorney’s office,” said District Attorney Whelan. “It is also a story heard all too often in the Medical Examiner’s office as well.”
The forum started with a video detailing “Angela’s Story,” the harrowing true story of a young Delaware County woman who overcame her addiction to prescription drugs and heroin.
In a videotaped interview with a representative from the District Attorney’s office, “Angela” tells how her prescription drug addiction led to heroin use. She explained the effects prescription drugs had on her, how powerful her addiction was, the problems she faced, and the family she had lost at the time.
She explained how when she could no longer afford her prescription drug habit, she turned to heroin because it was cheaper, more effective and a quicker high.
Audience members were visibly moved by “Angela’s Story.” The woman finally sought help. She is now clean, sober and has her life back. Her simple words to people are: “Just don’t do drugs.”
Residents also heard from Dr. Dunlap, a father and principal at West Chester East High School, who detailed the impact on his family of losing their son, Tim, drugs.
As Dr. Dunlap spoke, Tim’s story was demonstrated to the audience with photographs of Tim at different stages of his life. Tim’s drug use started in sixth grade and escalated from there. When Tim graduated from high School, he attended West Chester University and “things only went downhill from there,” his father said.
Dr. Dunlap said there were increasing signs of drug use such as weight loss, slurred speech and a change in sleeping habits. The most defining incident was when Tim didn’t try out for the West Chester University football team when football was one of the reasons he attended the university. He later failed out of his freshman year of college.
Dr.Dunlap said his family tried to deal with this together, helping Tim through treatment and taking care of him every step of the way.
“My family’s lives were changed the day Tim died from his addiction. The year Tim died, 12 of his 13 closest friends put themselves in rehab for prescription drug use,” the father said.
Shortly after his son’s death, Dunlap began to speak to audiences, especially in schools, about his son’s addiction and how his family overcame their loss.
“This is not just an epidemic, this is a pandemic,” Dunlap said. “This is not just in the Upper Darby School District (where the forum was held), it’s everywhere and it’s your good kids, making poor decisions.”
The public forum is just one aspect of the education and awareness activities of the Delaware County Heroin Task Force. The Task Force offers the program, “Realities of Prescription Drugs and Heroin Abuse,” to all school communities. To schedule a presentation, school officials can contact the District Attorney’s office at 610-891-4163.
There is also an informational brochure, available from the Task Force or it can be downloaded from the Delaware County website at www.co.delaware.pa.us.