Drug Abuse Turning Deadlier in Nevada - KTVN Channel 2 - Reno Tahoe Sparks News, Weather, Video

Drug Abuse Turning Deadlier in Nevada

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Carson City Sheriff Ken Furlong has been on the front lines of fighting drugs his whole career…35 years now. Lately, it's taken a turn for the worse. In the past few years, he's seen something that's become all too common: "Very young kids just out of high school...overdosing, lying at home on their bed, and they've passed away."

Drug abuse here is more fatal than ever. After programs were successful in fighting the epidemic of meth in Nevada, heroin has taken its place…and it's a deadlier replacement. Sheriff Furlong says that the skyrocketing heroin use they're witnessing began with something else. "Every time we've arrested someone who happens to have a bad heroin addiction, you will almost always find at the root of that a prescription pill addiction before the heroin came on."

And something shocking we learned at the drug summit: be aware of what your kids are buying, even the most innocent-looking items. On a table sat a bra...it was bought at a Reno mall. Take a closer look and you notice the zippers…it's really meant to stash drugs. Next to that is a highlighter pen that really does work on one end, but pull on the end and it's a pipe. And a "Monster" brand energy drink can. It's even weighted...meant to stash illicit drugs with a plastic tube inside, and sold in local stores.

Hanna McDonald, a youth program coordinator with Partnership Carson City, showed off a brand name athletic shoe that had been altered by another company to sell to drug users. As she said while removing the inside sole, "Look here, inside. There's a container perfect for stashing pills." All of these items, and more on display, were bought in Reno. This is personal for Hanna…she has friends who had to go to rehab. One died of a heroin overdose.

The state pharmacy board has a program tracking prescriptions, so physicians can see if patients are "doctor shopping." Douglas Cooper, executive director of the Nevada State Board of Medical Examiners, told us, "That program is worth its weight in gold. The problem is getting doctors to sign up to use it."

Cooper thinks at least there's more awareness. As he told us, "We are getting more educational programs going and more physicians attending these, so that signifies to me that the word is getting out."

It may be working. The latest numbers show pill abuse among teens is starting to drop off. The 2011 National Survey on Drug Use and Health shows a 14% decline in nonmedical use of prescription drugs by teens and young adults from 2010 to 2011. 18-to-25-year-olds reporting they had used nonmedical prescription drugs within the previous month declined from about 2 million in 2010 to 1.7 million in 2011.

Prescriptions for opioid painkillers even fell off late last year for the first time in 10 years. But the deadly nature of pill abuse and heroin means overdoses will continue to take a tragic toll. As Sheriff Furlong told us, "I still see our numbers for heroin and prescription pill arrests continuing to rise."

-written by John Potter

One of the hosts of this week's drug summit has a great web resource for those who want to fight drug abuse, and addicts who want to quit. Click below to connect with "Join Together Northern Nevada."



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