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SHEPHERDSVILLE - “Drugs are a big part of my story,” said Thrissie Dohn, a former addict and new Partners in Prevention (PIP) chairperson.
Dohn hosted PIP’s Prescription Drug Workshop, a free public event designed to raise awareness of prescription drug abuse.
A panel of experts joining Dohn included Bullitt County Drug Task Force coordinator Kenny Hardin, local physicians Dr. Mohana Arla and Dr. Praveen Arla, Bullitt County Safe and Drug Free School coordinator Jaime Goldsmith.
Dohn began the discussion, stating that Kentucky was leading the nation in prescription drug abuse.
“It’s a growing concern, particularly among teens,” she said.
The reasons, according to Dohn, were that prescription drugs were the easiest for teens to acquire, including painkillers, depressants and stimulants. Also, teens believe the side effects of prescription medication were fewer than illegal drugs.
“The majority of teens abusing drugs get them free from friends or relatives,” said Dohn. “Teens abuse over-the-counter cough and cold remedies. Many believe the myth that these drugs offer a safe high. Nothing I ever did was safe on prescription drugs.”
Dohn said some teens will use prescription medication with other illegal drugs, leading to serious consequences.
Using her past as an example, Dohn told of a time when her grandfather passed away.
“My Mom got what she wanted from his house,” she recalled. “When I got there I went straight to the medicine cabinet. People with cancer have the good stuff.”
The three places Dohn remembered searching most for drugs in someone else’s home included the bathroom medicine cabinet and drawers, the kitchen cupboards near the stove and the bedside tables.
Wadlington admitted she kept her medication near the stove when Dohn still lived in her home. She agreed to speak on behalf of the other side of teen drug abuse - the parent’s perspective.
“I’m going to talk about (Dohn) badly but I’ll talk worse about me,” she said. “Sometimes parents, out of love, we’re complete idiots.”
Wadlington noticed missing medication in her home. At first she thought the pharmacist made errors, then blamed the store, and eventually blamed her husband. Not once did she consider Dohn.
“We had an addict in the house and it was the last one I thought,” Wadlington admitted. “Her siblings even knew, but never told me, because they thought I knew.”
“Parents don’t always believe that their children are doing these things,” Goldsmith said.
Wadlington said any student could become a drug user. She said Dohn had great grades and participated in school sports and band.
“I just want parents to realize we see in our children what we want to see,” she said. “But look for any differences at all. Please don’t take it for granted. I don’t ever want a parent to go through what I went through for 14 years.”
Hardin discussed the increase in local burglaries as a result of prescription drugs.
“They steal nothing but drugs,” he said. “They leave big-screen televisions and jewelry there, they just want the drugs. It happens every week here.”
Hardin said the Drug Task Force received five to ten theft reports each week that were drug related only.
In 2007 the Drug Task Force reported 62 arrests for prescription drug abuse in some manner. In 2008 there were 60 arrests.
There have 52 arrests involving 99 cases in 2009, including one arrest Hardin said took place just 12 hours before the meeting.
The Drug Task Force communicates with all local physicians and pharmacists, training them on red flags, what types of phony prescriptions to watch for and dangerous customers. Hardin then showed pill bottles filled with candy and jelly beans.
“We’ve told them to do the transaction, but don’t put the drugs in,” he said. “Instead, use candy. You put (the bottles) in a bag, they’ll shake them and they’re ready to go.”
Hardin also presented local obituaries that included prescription drug abuse as the cause of death. He mentioned one case in Mount Washington where a teen overdosed on three Oxycontin pills at a party. No one called authorities for fear of being caught.
“The numbers rise all the time,” said Hardin. “We open cases nearly every day here in some manner.”
Dr. Mohana Arla said prescription medication could only be released by one source - the doctors. He argued that it was a doctor’s responsibility to investigate each prescription they filled.
“It takes less then two minutes to check,” he added.
Arla discussed the alternative of using the body’s natural endorphins to control physical feelings.
“Why does anybody want to take drugs,” he asked. “Bodies can produce the same things and can produce them stronger. Just look at me, I’m getting excited now. You can get high from your own body.”
Arla challenged others, especially younger people, to remain physically and mentally active if they want to sleep at night, rather than the medical alternatives.
“You tire your body, you tire you’re mind, you’ll go to sleep,” he said. “God gave you your body, use it the very best that you can.”
Dr. Praveen Arla said much of today’s prescription drug abuse could be linked to the media, primarily commercials.
“You have all this imagery around us that says this is good, it’s quick to fix with medications,” he said. “These drugs are amphetamines and narcotics. These drugs have abuse potential.”
Praveen Arla praised groups like PIP for implementing preventative educational program for younger people.
“You’ve got to get them young,” he said. “You’ve got to get them in advance.”
Moore encouraged prevention through an “appropriate level of intervention and assessment.” Hementioned the number of quality treatment programs in Kentucky including in and outpatient care and detox facilities.
According to Moore, the Alcoholics Anonymous 12 Steps program is still the most effective means of durg-free sustainability. He said students should be screened by school counselors and assessors along with parents.
Goldsmith said alcohol and marijuana are still the top two drugs of choice for local students. She mentioned drug programs implemented in local high schools and middle schools, including random drug testing.
“We’ve had less positive drug screenings now than last year,” she said. “Most (positive) tests were marijuana and also Atonolol (commonly used to control high blood pressure).”
Goldsmith said students’ drug of choice is many times pills that are harder for administrators to find. She said students pass them along in eyeglass cases, make-up compacts and even highlighter lids.
“We’re making sure teachers and administrators watch for new trends,” she said.
According to Goldsmith, Bullitt County students caught with drugs visit certified drug counselors. Moore added that out-patient treatment was cost-effective and allowed student to remain in school.