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Is local teen prescription drug abuse a problem?

Auburn teen says he is taking recovery one day at a time
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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Community officials had varying opinions about whether or not the community is facing a large teenage prescription drug abuse problem, and one Auburn teen said prescription drugs were his drug of choice. According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration every day, on average, 2,500 teens use prescription drugs to get high for the first time. According to the administration, two in five teens believe that prescription drugs are much safer than illicit drugs and three in 10 teens believe prescription pain relievers are not addictive. Auburn resident Connor, 17, whose last name is withheld because he is a minor, said he began abusing his mother’s prescription drugs when he was 14 years old. “My first time I tried it I tried Norco (pills), and they didn’t really do anything for me,” Connor said. “So I just started selling those instead of taking them. I got them through my mom. She wouldn’t give them to me. She had surgery and she got prescribed these and I would steal them.” Connor said he then started taking Soma, a muscle relaxer his mother had after her surgery. “That was my drug of choice, and I was taking those all the time, every time I could get my hands on them,” Connor said. “I would take them every day. You are only supposed to take one and I took one my first time and it messed me up.” While he was using he started failing all his classes and was kicked out of two schools, Connor said. Connor said after awhile he started building immunity to the pills and took more and more, including one time where he took 10 at once. “The last time I took 10 my mom said I looked like I was about to overdose, because I was on the couch twitching,” he said. “She knew because I couldn’t even walk, couldn’t even talk. She knew I was taking her pills. That is how I got caught. After that I didn’t take them as much but I wanted one really bad because I missed the high, I was chasing it.” Conner said then he turned to alcohol. Last summer when he was hanging out with a friend and drinking, his friend stole a car and Connor went to juvenile hall. It was here he was required to sign up for a drug rehabilitation program. Connor now attends the Full Circle Treatment Center in Roseville as well as Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. He said he has been clean for five months. Connor said his life has definitely changed for the better after his experience. “It’s the best,” he said. “I’m really happy with my life right now. My relationship with my girlfriend back when I was using, it was horrible. My relationship with my parents is better, way better.” Lt. Mark Reed, spokesman for the Placer County Sheriff’s Office, said the Sheriff’s Office has seen an increase over the last four years in the abuse of OxyContin. The medication sometimes belongs to parents and sometimes teens buy it from peers, Reed said. If caught, teens could be prosecuted, Reed said. Although the office hasn’t seen an increase in other types of prescription drug abuse, drugs such as Vicodin are still commonly used illegally, Reed said. “My advice would be parents talk to their kids about the dangers of using prescription medication,” Reed said. “Some people think because it’s prescribed, maybe it’s not as dangerous, but OxyContin is very addictive. So, (parents should be) talking to the kids and letting them know … how dangerous and addictive these drugs are and not to keep them in the house if they are not using them.” Officer Dave Neher, Auburn Police resource officer for Placer High School, said he is hearing of a decline in prescription drug abuse and a rise in rave drug abuse, such as Ecstasy or Special K. LSD and acid are also common with the club scene, Neher said. Neher said through working in the city’s most recent drug take-back event, he heard more parents say they are talking to their kids about the consequences of abusing prescription drugs. “I think a lot of people are more educated about it these days,” Neher said. Kathie Sinor, chairwoman of the Prescription and Over-the-Counter Drug Committee for the Coalition for Placer Youth, which partners with other local agencies to hold prescription drug take-back events in Placer County, said parents should be securing, monitoring and properly disposing of prescription drugs to stop teens from potentially abusing them. Auburn resident Christy Crandell, co-founder and administrative director for the Full Circle Treatment Center in Roseville, said prescription drug abuse seems to be fairly common in those teens who do abuse drugs. “We have just been in existence for three years in August,” Crandell said. “So, while I don’t know that the numbers are going up, it’s certainly prevalent and it’s definitely a concern. Most of our teens that enter our program have used a variety of drugs, it’s not just one and prescription medications are almost always included in that list of drugs they have used.” Crandell and her son, Ryan, wrote a book called “Lost and Found: A Mother and Son Find Victory Over Teen Drug Addiction.” Crandell said her son was addicted to cough medicine, which contains dextromethorphan. “It’s the ingredient that will quiet your cough, but it is abused by teens where they will use five to 20 times the amount intended to get high,” Crandell said. Crandell’s son is currently in prison for crimes he committed while under the influence of drugs, and he has been sober for six years. He was arrested not long after his 18th birthday. Crandell said she has several pieces of advice for parents looking to prevent their children from getting addicted to drugs including educating themselves about teen culture and how accessible prescription drugs are, drug testing their children randomly and taking children to a professional for a drug assessment. “I had no idea what teen culture looked like today, how easy drugs were to get, how many kids were using them,” she said. “It simply wasn’t on my radar. Had I been more aware and had I been drug testing randomly, then I would have been perhaps able to intervene in my son’s drug problem earlier rather than later.” Connor said when trying to rehabilitate from drug use, a person has to be fully committed. “I just look at one day at a time, taking it one second at a time,” he said. “I’m just telling myself every day I don’t want to drink, I don’t want to use. You have got to change everything when you want to stay sober. You have got to change what you do after school every day. You have to change your complete routine. You can’t hang out with the same friends or it’s just not going to work. You can’t have one foot in and one foot out.” Reach Bridget Jones at bridgetj@goldcountrymedia.com --------------------------------------------------- Full Circle Treatment Center Information: Call (916) 787-4357 or visit fullcircletreatmentcenter.org