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Citizens Group Targets Stopping Prescription Drug Abuse

By Staff | Oct 15, 2008

Citizens Against Prescription Drug Abuse is a local task force trying to find ways to raise awareness about the epidemic plaguing the area and curtail the illegal and dangerous activity.

The group, chaired by Wetzel County Prosecutor Tim Haught, includes representatives from the school system, medical field, pharmaceutical profession, local government, and concerned citizens. They have been meeting every two weeks for a few months to organize their efforts.

Their overriding mission is to save lives.

Recently in New Martinsville a 19-year-old boy died of a Xanax overdose. That is the third Wetzel County death to prescription drugs Haught knows of in the last two or three years. “That’s how serious the problem is,” he said.

“There’s a high level of frustration with drug issues,” said Haught. “I don’t know how to control it, because it’s just a big problem.”

The key is really prevention. However, Haught sees the biggest hurdle to preventing drug abuse are parents who are in denial. He wishes parents would come forward and get their children help while they are still young. “Parents can address it before it becomes a crisis-when it’s then hard to do anything about it,” said Haught. As juveniles, help is available, but Haught said once a user becomes an adult, “they’ll learn it the hard way.”

Sue Villers, Wetzel County Board of Education Director of Attendance and Student Support Services, said the local school system has found that 12-year-olds are taking pills and snorting them in a powdered form.

Another huge obstacle, believes Haught, is that parents do not know if their insurance pays for drug rehabilitation and don’t know how they would pay for it without insurance.

A good service to the school system, said Villers, would be if someone came and told the county principals what can be done to help people who say they have problems. As a side note, Villers said there are never any punitive measures taken against students who report themselves in an effort to get help.

Many times the school system is where students get the most help as many drug users have very little support at home, according to Haught. Wetzel County Board of Education Member Willie Baker said they have discovered that during expulsion hearings.

The group’s first project is going to be a take-back program where citizens can bring their unused prescription drugs to a central location to be immediately destroyed. This action will eliminate any possible theft of the drugs that can be highly desired on the street.

“We need to get some incentives,” said Haught, who noted that it may be hard to convince people to bring their drugs in when they can be sold for a profit.

Rite Aid Pharmacist Greg Hohman believes people that might sell the drugs are not the people who will bring them back. Wetzel County Hospital Pharmacist Rob Rothlisberger suggested that perhaps some local pharmacies could give a $5 coupon or some similar incentive for the return of unused drugs.

Other communities have already hosted take back programs and Rothlisberger has a notebook outlining several such events, complete with policies and procedures. He will make copies of those and provide them to the group so they can look over what has been done elsewhere to get a better idea of what might work in Wetzel County.

The “take back” event will likely be the culmination of an awareness campaign to be held next year, perhaps in March or April.

The group is going to see if there is already an awareness week set aside when they could coordinate their efforts.

The campaign will include doctors and pharmacists giving awareness talks at the county schools. “I think people respect doctors, medical professionals,” noted Haught. He said that law enforcement officers and the county prosecutor are not as well received by students because they are sometimes the very people who arrested their parents or other relatives. But doctors and pharmacists help people.

The citizens group will continue working on fighting the misuse of prescription drugs. They hope some concerned citizens from throughout the county, particularly from the Pine Grove, Paden City, and Hundred areas, will join in their efforts.

“If it wakes 10 people up to the problem, to realize we have a problem, it will be worth it,” said New Martinsville Mayor Lucille Blum. To get involved call Blum at 455-9120.