Prescription Drug Abuse Plagues Huntington

By Megan Trent

June 18, 2010 Updated Jun 16, 2010 at 6:44 PM EDT

HUNTINGTON, Ind. (Indiana's NewsCenter) - It's a deadly problem on the rise in Huntington. Prescription drug abuse. In the past two and a half weeks three people from Huntington County have died as a result of prescription drug overdoses. Now the County Coroner is speaking out about a trend he says has been on the rise for three years now.

In 2008 there were two prescription drug related deaths, in 2009 there was three, and it could already be three halfway through 2010. "Now that's not huge numbers, but again I think the important thing is there's a lot of that behavior that's going on out there that has not resulted in death. So there's a lot of people out there that are participating in a very risky behavior," says Huntington County Coroner Leon Hurlburt.

Indiana's NewsCenter was there in March as officers arrested 28 people in connection with an illegal prescription drug ring in Huntington. Hurlburt says the increase is due to accessibility. Go to anyone's house and you're likely to find prescriptions, and it's difficult to notice if a few go missing. Officials also say police in Huntington have cracked down on street drugs, making prescription drugs a popular alternative.

Furthermore, it may be a common misconception that just because a doctor has prescribed a drug, it must be safe. Hurlburt says, "Everybody's body chemistry is different. So you could take the same mix of drugs as your friend and you may not be affected but your friend will be affected in a grave way as far as death. What I'm seeing is there's a lot of mixing of different drugs and that's what's very dangerous."

This year was the third year for Huntington's prescription drop off program, and Hurlburt says it was a huge success. He also points out that people can drop unwanted or expired prescriptions off at the Sheriff's Department or the Huntington County Health Department with no questions asked. He says you can even mark out the name and address if you would like, but asks that you leave the name of the drug on the label so they can identify what's inside.

This isn't just a problem for law enforcement. Medical professionals need to closely monitor who they give prescriptions to and try to decrease the possibility of abuse. Friends and family need to get involved too. Police can't be everywhere, so the responsibility must also fall on the shoulders of people who know the addicts best and interact with them most frequently.

The Huntington community is taking a stand as well. More than 1,000 people have participated on a Facebook page called "Stop prescription drug addiction in Huntington County, Indiana."

This problem isn't unique to Huntington. It exists on some level almost everywhere. If prescription drug abuse is a problem for you or someone you know, don't wait to get treatment. Get help or tell someone who can.

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