Solana Beach talk sheds light on the prescription drug abuse gripping San Diego County

By Marlena Chavira-Medford

Staff Writer

A generation ago, drug addictions were something formed in seedy alleys, in bad parts of town. Today, that’s no longer true. An alarming number of those addictions are starting at home, in the medicine cabinet — especially among kids.

According to the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy, prescription drugs are the second most abused illegal drug (behind marijuana) by kids ages 12 to 17, and the most commonly abused drug among kids ages 12 to 13.

“It’s a national epidemic, and it’s happening here in San Diego County,” deputy district attorney Matthew Williams told an audience at Calvary Lutheran Church in Solana Beach during a Jan. 26 talk about prescription drug abuse. “If you think it’s not happening in our back yard, think again.”

In fact, from 2005 to 2009, San Diego County saw a staggering 74 percent spike in deaths related to prescription drugs.

“A big reason for that is we’re seeing a whole new generation of drug addicts who see pills as a cure-all,” he said. “Think about it: When you turn on the TV today, every other commercial is for some magic pill. That wasn’t the case when we were growing up. We now have a generation of kids who think it’s normal to take a pill for everything.”

But those pills can be deadly, namely OxyContin, a narcotic pain reliever.

“When kids take these pills they’re putting heroin in their mouths,” he said of the prescription pills, which are synthetically similar to heroin, and can be ingested, snorted, smoked or shot through a syringe. “These pills are every bit as dangerous as heroin, every bit as deadly as heroin, and every bit as addictive as heroin.”

Most OxyContin users start taking a quarter of a pill per day, and within just a few months, graduate up to eight pills a day. And at upwards of $80 a pill, a lot of addicts end up switching to heroin because it’s cheaper.

The rash of OxyContin use started locally in affluent North County neighbors, such as Del Mar, Solana Beach, Rancho Santa Fe and Carmel Valley, said San Diego Sheriff’s Sergeant Dave Ross, a 21-year police veteran who helped establish the OXY Task Force in San Diego.

“While working undercover, I’ve picked up about a thousand pills right here down the street,” Ross said, pointing to the gas station off Via de la Valle and Stevens roads. “This area continues to be a hot spot for OxyContin.”

The problem is, a lot of parents don’t know it. North County resident Jodi Frantz was one of the many parents who was oblivious to the prescription drug epidemic — that is, until her own son Patrick became an addict. He tried OxyContin for the first time in 2007 when he was a senior at Torrey Pines High School, she said. After a three-year battle with the drug, he died this summer from an overdose.

“The last time I stood here was when I eulogized my own son’s funeral,” she told the audience inside the Solana Beach church through tears. “Seven months ago, my family lived an indescribable nightmare. I received the phone call no parent wants.

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