Prescription drug abuse is growing problem

Wanda English Burnett, Editor

Abusing prescription drugs has become an epidemic that bridges age, social and economic barriers.

Law enforcement officers are seeing the problem in students as young as middle school age as was evidenced in a recent situation in Jennings County. WRBI Radio reported that the students had various prescription drugs at school that they shared. Teachers noticed their unusual behavior and reported it to the proper authorities.

The thing that makes it so easy for children is the accessibility. It’s as close as their parents’ medicine cabinet.

A recent sweep in Dearborn County saw numerous arrests made that included charges of dealing in a controlled substance, forgery, neglect of a dependant, controlled substances offenses relating to registration (means the prescription was obtained by fraud).

Within a three day period, law enforcement made nearly three dozen arrests with some Ripley County residents involved. In the Dearborn County sweep, Rhonda Deaton, 45, of Milan, was arrested for forgery and attempt to unlawfully acquire a controlled substance. Chad Allen Estridge, 32, of Sunman, was arrested on charges of controlled offenses relating to registration or obtaining a prescription by fraud. Deborah Bergman, Milan, was later arrested in Ripley County, on charges of possession of a controlled substance.

Ripley County Prosecutor Ric Hertel said prescription drug abuse is definitely on the rise and is an extremely dangerous practice.

He noted that people are taking drugs not prescribed for them, which is a prescription for disaster. When the dosage doesn’t match the symptoms, the body weight, etc., it can be fatal, according to the prosecutor who has seen it happen right here in Ripley County.

Hertel feels it’s particularly a dangerous situation because of the accessibility and affordability. “Everybody knows someone who’s taking prescriptions,” he told The Versailles Republican. He said people even go as far as “doctor shopping” and forging prescriptions, to get the drugs they want.
Doctor shopping is where a patient will go from doctor to doctor, even city to city, getting multiple prescriptions mainly for pain. They don’t tell the new doctor that they are already under another doctor’s care.

The prosecutor also explained that people are not taking the medication as prescribed, which is another problem. Basically, offenders are snorting, crushing, also injecting medicines not in the manner prescribed.

Hertel stressed that people should never share prescription medication, it’s against the law and could have a fatal outcome. He also suggested that adults keep track of their prescription medicines and dispose of any unused medication.

Hertel noted that sometimes the problem escalates after someone gets a legitimate prescription for pain killers. “They become addicted to them or just like the way they feel when taking the medicine,” he noted. He said often times people have the misconception that prescription drugs are safe because a doctor has prescribed them. While that’s true if the patient takes the medicine only as prescribed, it’s not at all the case if the drugs wind up in the wrong hands.

Some treatment programs that counter offer addictions with other drugs are also being abused, according to the prosecutor.

Some of the more popular drugs include: Oxycodone, Fentanyl, Methadone, Vicodin, Percocet, Oxycontin, and Xanax.

The charge for selling a controlled substance such as a prescription drug can be as high as a Class A Felony, which has a range of 20-50 years imprisonment with a $10,000 fine.

While the accessibility and affordability can make the sale of prescription drugs seem like an easy way to make quick money, the penalty can land those convicted in prison for a long time.

As the problem becomes more widespread, special drug task forces are being formed to combat it. Law enforcement agencies are pulling together working with doctors and pharmacies to halt the dangerous trafficking of prescription drugs.

If you have knowledge of illegal use or sales of prescription drugs, call local authorities at 812-689-5000.