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It's ok a doctor prescribed it!

Find out why Portsmouth Ohio is the epicentre of prescription drug abuse in the US.
Last modified: 7 May 2011 04:24
[EPA]

In the United States the number of people hospitalised for prescription drug abuse has increased four hundred percent in the past ten years.

The small town of Portsmouth, Ohio is the epicentre of the problem.

Over thirty people - many in their early twenties - have died from prescription drug abuse.

One in ten babies born in Scioto County (Sy-oh-toe) last year tested positive for drugs.

Fatal overdoses have surpassed car crashes as the leading cause of accidental death in Ohio.

I met Andrea Queen, a reformed abuser at her new place of work in Portsmouth a clinic helping today's abusers. 

A friend told Andrea to take a prescription pill one evening - "just to get the party going," he said.  It led to a habit that nearly killed her.  She told me:

"This growing sense of paranoia helped convince me that I needed to take myself out of this world that killing myself would be the one way out."

Ed Hughes is the Executive Director of The Counseling Center Inc and has been charting the rise of prescription drug abuse in Ohio.  He shows me a series of maps showing the counties in the State ... each one he hands me gets progressively redder in colour.

"We had high admissions for opiate addictions in 2001 and then when we look eight years later in 2009."

Street clinics known as Pill Mills dole out the highly addictive opiate Oxycotton (OxyContin is the official name) to anyone with the money to pay for it some doctors in the area are cashing in on this big business. Ed told me:Scioto County is an area once known for steel and shoe making but which now has one of the highest rates of prescription drug abuse in the state of Ohio...and the country

."Most of the time they're doctors that have become marginalised in their profession they're, you know, they've had problems with their practice or problems with their hospitals ...more than one of the Pill Mills here in our community are owned and operated by people who have had past felony drug offences."

Andrea's recovering from the prescription drug hell that almost ended her life and now counsels others .. with a warning:
"Don't do it doesn't get the party going it gets the addiction going."

Not everybody recovers from prescription drug abuse and a wall in the display window of an empty department store in Portsmouth is testimony to that.

It contains the names of thirty six people who have died in this area as a result of abusing prescription drugs.

Joanna Krohns knows this all too well.  She lost her son Wes when he accidentally shot himself while high on painkillers.  She's now started a group called Solace to help other grieving parents.

"When you lose a child it's such a devastating thing I didn't really know where to turn, who to turn talk to and I thought if I can just reach out to other parents give them somebody to talk to give them hope so that's kind of what I did."

The wall in downtown Portsmouth containing so many young faces - the majority were around the age of twenty two - is heartbreaking to look at.

Easy access to painkillers right across America means many more are likely to lose their lives too.