Attorney general warns students about prescription drug dangers

Mar. 20, 2013 @ 06:09 PM

Many parents tell children about the dangers of alcohol and illegal drugs, but too few seem to think about warning that legal prescription drugs can be even more dangerous.

“They’re fine, if you take them as prescribed by a doctor,” North Carolina’s Attorney General Roy Cooper said to a crowd gathered Wednesday at City of Medicine Academy. “They can be very good for us. However, when abused, they can be deadly.”

Cooper spoke at a kickoff of his second annual prescription drug awareness effort, in which he enlists public school students to create public service announcements on YouTube in a statewide competition. Last year, a team from CMA took first place in the contest. This year, Cooper encouraged them to go for a repeat.

“We figured that the best people to talk to other young people is you,” Cooper said. “You know what’s happening. You how how to talk to people your age.”

Frankie Andrews, a Surrey County resident who lost two nephews to prescription drug overdoses within just a few years of each other, shared his personal crusade with the crowd.

Matthew and Brandon were good students and promising athletes who struggled with addiction, Andrews said. “It’s a fight that you and I could never fathom.”

Now they’re gone, because they made poor choices and couldn’t get the help they needed to recover.

“I ask each and every one of you all to please make good choices when it comes to this,” he said.

Donnie Varnell, lead agent for the State Bureau of Investigation’s Diversion and Environmental Crimes Unit, told students that gangs are shifting from illegal narcotics such as marijuana and heroin to prescription drugs. And he cited statistics that 25 percent of high school students indicate that they would abuse prescription drugs.

“To us, that’s disturbing,” Varnell said. Prescription drugs were tied to more than 1,000 deaths in 2012 and more students are showing up in emergency rooms because of them, he said.

“Most people who smoke marijuana for the first time don’t die,” he said. “But if you take your first 30 milligram oxycodone, you may go to sleep in third period and never wake up.”

Cooper urged people to check their homes for unused prescription drugs and properly dispose of them to remove temptation and keep them out of the wrong hands. Don’t flush medications down the toilet and don’t throw them in the garbage, he said. Instead, turn them over to authorities who can see that they are incinerated.

From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, the Durham Police Department encourages residents to deliver unwanted prescription drugs to dropoff points at police headquarters downtown and at Kroger grocery stores on Hillsborough Road, Holloway Street and N.C. 54. The police headquarters also has a permanent dropoff container for use year-round.

Fabian Medina, a 17-year-old junior at CMA, said he appreciated the presentation and learned from it.

“It was wonderful,” he said. “It explained a lot about how families aren’t educated. People know marijuana is bad, but prescription drugs are harmful too. That’s a powerful message for our community.”

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