Spike in prescription drug abuse

Spike in prescription drug abuse
By: CJ Cassidy

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. - The number of victims of prescription drug abuse continues to grow, and most of them are teenagers.

Three local people sit behind bars in connection with the death of a 21-year-old Park Hills man.

Scott Cook and Larry Chandler of Farmington face charges of second degree murder and distribution of a controlled substance.

Police say a Park Hills woman, Joy Gray Johnson, faces charges for selling Chandler and Cook the prescription drug Fentanyl that ended up killing the victim back in April.

Meanwhile, a national study shows there's a 300 percent increase in the number of teens seeking help for prescription drug addiction in the past ten years.

Teens we spoke with say most people think prescription drugs are safer than street drugs, but the big reason seems to be easy access.

Two young recovering addicts told us how quickly they became hooked.

"Amy", 21, and "Jennifer", 19, are undergoing drug rehab.

At first glance, I find them to be pretty and confident, with easy smiles and intelligent answers.

But both girls fell victim to the appeal of prescription drugs.

"I could do anything on pain pills. I was invincible. I was taking up to 30, 40 Percocets a day, at least 80 mg of Oxycontin, and 50 mg of Fentanyl," Amy recalls.

"I took 16 Xanax and 9 Addarol," Jennifer says.

One after another, the names roll off the girls' tongues.

They tell me they got the pills so easily, it made giving them up so much harder.

"I would go to emergency rooms, and say I had a toothache when I really didn't, and even if it didn't look like a toothache they would prescribe drugs for me," Amy says.

"I got them because they were all around my family, both sides of my family have them prescribed to them and many of them abuse drugs," Jennifer says.

She became addicted at age 13 when her best friend offered her a handful of pills.

Amy picked up the habit at 16.

Over the next few years, she had run-ins with police and lost her home and car.

Even the horrifying side effects weren't enough to make her quit.

"I was throwing up, and having extreme diarrhea to the point where it was painful," Amy says.

The girls eventually ended up in drug court and found themselves in rehab.

Now they hope it soon becomes harder for other teens to get their next high.

"There's many people that doctor shop and they get more than they need, and they sell them for money," Amy says.

The girls say they're glad to have a place like the Family Counseling Center in Cape Girardeau to help get their lives back in order.

Meanwhile, police and pharmacists say a prescription monitoring system would help track drug offenders.

And they want your help.  They ask you to voice your opinion by calling your state representative.