Local therapist says prescription drug abuse is an epidemic

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Reporter - Mychaela Bruner
Photographer - David Dycus

GRAVES COUNTY, Ky. - The Kentucky Incentives For Prevention School survey shows there has been a dramatic drop in the number of teens using prescription drugs.  While that is good news, drug overdose deaths involving prescription pain killers has still quadrupled nationwide in just the last decade.

The number of drug overdose deaths doubled in 29 states since 1999 with prescription drugs causing the majority of those deaths. All four of the states in the Local 6 viewing area have seen an increase in death rates involving prescription pill abuse in the past decade.

In 2010, Kentucky's rates quadrupled ranking the state third highest for drug overdose mortality rates.  Following that, Missouri is ranked 7th highest with the state's death rates tripling since 1999.  Tennessee is ranked 8th, with death rates doubling from the past decade.  Illinois ranks 38th, but their death rate has increased by almost 50 percent.

Clinical Practitioner Jennifer Villarreal said the statistics are alarming and unfortunately the prescription pill abuse epidemic is on the rise.

"Some people don't realize they can use them several times, but on the 3rd, 4th, 5th time they use it, it might result in an overdose," said Villarreal.

Villarreal said prescription pill abusers are unfortunately getting younger.

"I think to not think that it's in the middle school's would be a tremendous injustice, we need to be very cautious of our middle schoolers...I've heard of 8 and 9-year-old kids being exposed to drug use," said Villarreal.

Graves County Sheriff Dwayne Redmon said he has seen a large problem with prescription drug abuse.

"It's not uncommon for us to get two to three calls a week of someone who's taken an overdose of prescription medications," said Sheriff Redmon.

Villarreal said it is an epidemic and the reason behind it is unknown.

"Some do it because they see it on the media, sometimes they see their parents do it and some see the older kids doing it and they want to fit in," said Villarreal.

Sheriff Redmon is encouraging parents to lock up their medicine at all times.  Villarreal said it is important for parents to be on the look out for symptoms that may be caused from drug abuse including mood swings, changes in sleeping patterns and anxiety.

If drug abuse is even a possibility, you can call the Four Rivers Behavioral Health Crisis Line at 1 (800) 592-3980.  To see Kentucky Incentives For Prevention School study, click here.

To see Prescription Drug Abuse: Strategies to Stop the Epidemic study, click here.

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