The Daily Southerner, Tarboro, NC

January 24, 2013

Abuse of prescription pills on rise

Van Holland

TARBORO — Prescription pill abuse is a rising trend in Edgecombe County.

Officials say prescription pills, such as painkillers, can be highly addictive and every bit as dangerous as street drugs such as cocaine and marijuana. The street value of prescription drugs varies from $2 to $30 for a single pill.

The most common pills abusers are using and buying off of the streets are percocet, oxycontin, opana, methadone, fentanyl, klonopin and xanax.

In 2011, stats show that more than 900 people died from prescription drug overdoses in the state and law enforcement officials believe the numbers will continue to grow until the public comes to grips with the problem.

With the trend rising, law enforcement in Edgecombe County has seen an increase in arrests that have been a result of suspects being caught with pills for which they do not have a prescription, that they have stolen from a victim’s residence or they have bought on the streets from a dealer.

In 2012, the Edgecombe County Sheriff’s Office made 36 arrests of people in possession or trying to sell prescription pills.

Sheriff James Knight said there are a lot of side effects to using and getting addicted to prescription pills.

The addiction can cause people to begin stealing from family members, breaking into residences and committing criminal offenses that they normally wouldn’t commit just to get the money to purchase the pills illegally.

“The pill era has begun to grow in our area,” Knight said. “We are seeing the use of pills grow exponentially. Overdoses are also on the rise.”

Knight said a lot of times people experiment with drugs for many different reasons. Many people first try drugs out of curiosity to have a good time, because their friends are doing it or in an effort to improve different types of performances. That recreational use in many cases is what leads to the abuse of the drugs. People aren’t able to control the recreational habit and it gets out of hand and they become addicted.

Using drugs doesn’t automatically lead to abuse, but the number of people who can get away from the drugs once they are addicted are very slim, the sheriff noted.

There are numerous warning signs that family members can watch for if they suspect they have a family member on prescription drugs or suspect them of abusing them.

“Family members can watch for rapid weight loss or a change in behavior,” Knight said. “A lot of times users will have mood swings and nervous ticks such as scratching more frequently. Those signs show that someone is abusing prescription drugs.”

When people are hooked on pills, they often become nervous, paranoid, fidgety and most of the time they are over mellow. When someone uses prescription drugs more frequently than they are prescribed to be used, sometimes it can cause violence in the user, because they have a chemical balance of the brain that is disturbed and that causes the mood swings.

These are 10 warning signs that family members can rely on to answer the question if their family member are abusing prescription drugs.

• Increase in usage of the drug. Prolonged use of many prescription medications leads to increased tolerance, so people may need increasing amounts of the drug to feel normal.

• Withdraws from society.

• Spends time getting extra prescriptions from different doctors.

• Personality changes such as shift in mood or energy levels.

• Continued use if a person continues to use the drug after the pain is resolved.

• Changes in daily routine. Routines can change because of addiction such as hygiene, eating and sleeping patterns.

• Suddenly irresponsible can cause people to ignore responsibilities.

• Overly sensitive to light and sound.

• Forgetful or having blackouts and periods of forgetting things.

• Defensive when comforted about their problem. May lash out when questioned.