[StBernard] St. Bernard makes big push to crack down on prescription drug deaths

Westley Annis westley at da-parish.com
Wed Jul 14 08:07:54 EDT 2010

St. Bernard makes big push to crack down on prescription drug deaths

by Meg Farris / Medical Reporter


Posted on July 13, 2010 at 9:50 PM

These days a person addicted to drugs doesn't need to look beyond the
medicine cabinet. So drug agents and doctors are sending out a warning and
being proactive so they can stop the next person from being a victim.

Last year prescription drugs took the lives of nearly a dozen people in St.
Bernard Parish.

In 2009 we had 23 fatality drug overdoses, half of that was heroin related,
the other half was pharmaceutical drugs. Last year we had one female that
overdosed and survived that was 11, so obviously they are starting at a
young age," said Colonel Chad Clark, a Commander of the Special
Investigations Division in the St. Bernard Sheriff's Department.

So the Sheriff's Office is being proactive with "Operation Medicine

"Right now kids are out of school. They are having parties. They are home
alone, you know, they are having functions swim-overs, sleep-overs, whatever
the case may be. If you have medicine in your cabinet, we don't want your
teenage daughter or son's friend coming in to your medicine cabinet," said

The Narcotics Unit in St. Bernard is asking for all your unwanted
prescription medications and making sure they are disposed of properly, not
in the garbage where people search for them and not flushed where the get
into the water supply and the marine life.

Instead, they are documented in great detail, then the pills and bottles are
destroyed. Narcotics agents video the incineration of every pill to have on
record that they were properly destroyed. They have had widows turn in pain
medications and patches after their spouses died of cancer. People with the
brain disease of addiction have also come in.

"We've seen the addict come in saying, 'Look, I'm looking for help.' And if
they come and they look for help, we'll take that medicine from them and try
to get them the treatment that's needed," explained Clark.

Dr. Tom Hauth is a Psychiatrist and Medical Director for the Jefferson
Parish Human Services Authority. He treats people in Jefferson Parish with
mental, behavioral and addictive illnesses, especially people without
insurance. And he says the St. Bernard program is an excellent idea since
prescription drug addiction is a huge problem.

"More teens abuse prescription medication than any other illicit substance,
except for marijuana," said Dr. Hauth.

People wrongly think they are safe since the drugs are legal. And only a
very small percentage are obtained from doctor shopping or off of the

"There have been some surveys that indicate that 70 percent of the
prescription medication that's abused by any individuals are received from
family or friends. These are either taken from family or friends. Family or
friends give them the medication or it's stolen from family or friends,"
said Dr. Hauth.

The doctors and police say most of the prescription drugs fall in to two
categories: pain killers and anxiety drugs. Both are used to alter the way
the brain works, so people are unaware of real life. They do it alone or at
parties doing something called "pharming."

"There's an alarming trend that people come to a party and just put in a big
bowl of whatever medications they happen to acquire and then it's there for
general consumption, during the course of the party, which you can imagine
just how dangerous that is," Dr. Hauth added.

"You see Xanax, you see Soma, you see Vicodin, Lortab, you're seeing 10mg
Methadone now. We had OxyContin, probably 10 years ago. We don't see a whole
bunch of that any more," said Clark.

Now St. Bernard says the program is a success. More than 3,000 pills turned
in, in only three months, pills that now will never end up taking the life
of another person.

St. Bernard deputies have made more arrests in the last few months because
they have added four new agents to the Narcotics and Street Crimes Division.

They are also being more proactive since more people have come to work in
the parish because of the oil spill.

To turn in your pills call 271-DOPE.

National Institute on Drug Abuse: www.nida.nih.gov\

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration: www.samhsa.gov\

Jefferson Parish Human Services Authority for treatment and assessment of
mental, addiction and behavioral disorders: 349-8833

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