tv Beyond the Headlines ABC May 10, 2015 4:30pm-5:01pm PDT
♪ > . welcome to "beyond the headlines." question want to talk about the deadly rise in prescription use. you will hear from mothers, sisters, a doctor who treats addicts, a young person in treatment and the u.s. attorney who brought law enforcement and medical world together to find ways to treat this problem. you may be surprised to learn many addicts are from wealthy communities. for example, in contra costa county more than 20% of the patients at one clinic come from walnut creek, lafayette, pleasant hills, danville, alamo and san ramon. let's get down to business. i want to introduce you to my
guests today. joining me is dr. alex stallcup, the director of the new leaf treatment center in lafayette. also tina coramatis, whose son is in treatment for addiction, and joe megly, a young person currently in treatment. it's coramatis. >> that's right. >> doctor, i've been following your work for years. we stayed in touch. you don't mince words, you say kids are abusing drugs so badly they're having seizures at 15 years old. >> a lot of people talk about prescription drugs, referring to the painkillers, opiates, they are killing kids, that's a fact. the field changes. we're seeing a new explosion of the use of the drug called xanax, an old tranquilizer. it produces a form of physical dependence. if there's not careful attention to getting you off, seizures develop. kids as young as 15, 16 are presenting to emergency rooms
with seizures. if we knew before they were trying to stop, we could help them. once they get seizures, it's late in the game. that's true for a lot of other drugs. we see kids coming in probably the most common painkiller now is vicodin. vicodin contains tylenol. tylenol kills liver cells. people -- above eight tylenol a day you can get in trouble with the liver. our typical patient coming in on 30, 40 a day. >> these are kids. >> children. these are our kids. it's not poor kids. these are all kids. about 50% of high school students know someone who sells drugs in their class. >> tina, your son did not want his name used. i respect that. he's in treatment, but he had a long road. >> he did. my son was the quintessential kid, you read about them every
day. he went to high school. fell in love with marijuana. >> experimenting with drugs? >> experimenting early on. by the time he was a senior he had progressed to oxycontin. he was shooting it. he then went on to heroin. heroin is cheaper. by the time he finished his first year of college, he was really addicted. the pathetic and scary thing is that my husband and i were totally clueless. we had no idea. in high school, we know kids did beer -- >> not your son, right? >> no. he was a nice kid. involved in boy scouts as an eagle scout. so, we just thought, you know a little pot, a little beer, okay. >> you had a moment of truth. you found him. >> i did. the summer after he came back from school, he was in the bathroom. and taking a long time. i went in there, he was on the
floor. he was passed out. he had a syringe next to him and a bent spoon with a brown residue on it. i had no idea what i was looking at. i was completely clueless. we knew then we had a problem. as a family we went through several years of, you know, it was devastating emotionally, financially, our relationship really pretty much broke up. but thank goodness we found the doctor, he's doing better now. he recovered. he has spent two years clean. life happens. and so when devastating things happen, like my -- this past year my husband passed away, and he then relapsed. but now he's back on the right road. he's back at new leaf. we're very happy to see him moving forward. >> i'm glad that he survived. joe, you survived as well.
you started experimenting with drugs when you were in high school, right? >> right. around 20 started to pick up prescripti prescription, went and decided to ask my parents for help. it was probably the hardest thing i've done. very humiliating. humbling at the same time. and that was a year and a half ago. it's taken me some time to find the right treatment centers for me, so to speak. >> new leaf was the place. >> right. it feels great to have my life back. you know, i have went through a rotten experience, but the lessens i've learned have been invaluable. i'm fortunate. i wish more people could get treatment and spread out just because there's a lot of people out there that are sick. >> there's a lot of help out there, too. this is a controversial
medication i want to show folks. i want the doctor to talk about this. joe is on this. >> this is a medication that is -- it should be available to everyone addicted to prescription painkillers. this is -- opiates break something in the brain. it takes longer to heal than we ever realized. this medication is like a cast on a broken leg. with the protection of the medication underneath the medication the brain heals. it takes much longer than we ever realized. we're now advising most of the kids we see to stay on this for about a year. >> wow. >> before they try to come off. during that time they get their life together, mental health back together. reestablish relationships. it's not a free ride. there's a lot work to stay sober. this enables it to happen. >> this is something else. >> this should prevent this.
this is part of an overdose prevention kit. we like for all of our families and all of our users to have this available. within about 90 seconds this will bring them back from death, wake them up and save their lives. we provide this to patients. anyone who needs one, we make it available to them. we think this is end of the road. we would like someone to be on treatment so they don't need an overs dose prevention kit. if they do, this is life-saving. >> thank you very much for all of you sharing your stories. i know it's difficult. thank you for the work you're doing. we have to take a break right now. still ahead, a mother whose college-aged son died from an overdose, a sister who lost her brother, and how they both turned their pain into a call for action. also the u.s. attorney who is bringing law enforcement and health expe
welcome back. i'm cheryl jennings. we are talking about prescription drug abuse, a deadly epidemic. plus a shocking increase in heroin use and the fact that kids are dying from it. joining me now is april rosaro, a mother who lost her college-aged son due to an overdose. she turned that private pain into a massive effort to help others. i'm glad you're here. i'm so sorry about the loss of your son. >> thank you. >> we met at the drug summit. i'm grateful for the grassroots work you're doing. let's get started by talking about what happened to your son. >> joey graduated from high school in 2006, went off to school in the fall to arizona state university. on december 18, 2009 we got a call letting us know he had been found in his apartment off campus and he had passed away. ultimately we learned that he had visited a doctor just nine
days before his passing. he had been prescribed medications she have never had. that doctor has since been arrested and charged with his death so she's been charged second degree murder in his death as well as two other patients. the pharmacy that filled the prescriptions that was about 35 miles away from her office has been closed down. so the pharmacy, owner/operator of it lost their license. >> this must have been a terrible loss to your family. >> this impacts not just the family but all my friends who knew my son and the community at large. it's an interesting cascade of events packed in sorrow and grief and dealing and coping with this issue. not just then. it lasts. >> it continues. >> you have taken that into a national movement. you found an organization and we are putting banners up on the
screen as resources for people. we want them to go to your website and see these resources and referrals for treatment. one of the things i saw on your website is a lot of signs parents and friends can look for. >> yes. i think it's important that parents understand what those signs are. typically it will be things like are they changing friends. you know, is there a different group of friends that they're hanging out with. is there a pareppearance changi? eating habits changing? noticeable changes, beyond typically what you would think is happening in the teen world. parents sometimes make the mistake of i think, thinking that these symptoms that they're seeing or the signs of abuse are attributed to teenage behavior, they're not. typically it would be taking it to the next level. >> tell me about your coalition. >> our coalition was founded in june. we're four years old, june 2010, just shortly after joey passed away. it was our way of putting his
life to good purpose. we are focused on educating communities locally, on a countywide basis, statewide and nationally. i'm personally involved in coalitions, work groups and task forces at all those levels. education and political advocacy. >> i want to remind people this is so important of some of the signs that you just talked about. we'll put those on the screen as we continue to talk. your organization, you accomplished a lot of things already. you have gotten a national month declared. >> it's a state month. through the state of california, march is prescription drug abuse awareness month. >> and then also you got national rallies. >> mm-hmm. >> we had a rally that's happening in the fall. this is our second year, we plan to continue the rally. we will be in our next one this year and beyond. >> so, can anybody join? can anybody go to the rally? if they want to get involved and have a chapter?
>> certainly the rally, we are hoping for 3,000 people. we very much would like to see californians attend this rally. i'll be there personally and a number of people i know here. so, it's something that we encourage anyone who has an interest in this topic to be a part of. >> we have about ten seconds left. final thoughts for parents and friends? >> i think it's so important for paf parents to educate themselves, educate, teach kids what they need to know to keep them safe and healthy. >> thank you for what you're doing. appreciate it. >> thank you. >> we'll continue this fight. >> okay. all right. we have to take a break. coming up next, you'll meet a young author who lost her brother to prescription drugs. and you will look at the actions she took to save others from the same fate. we'll be back with more in
zyrtec® dissolve tabs. muddle no more™. welcome back to "beyond the headlines." our show today is called prescription drug abuse, a deadly epidemic. how do families move on after they lose somebody to a deadly a addicti addiction? many of us including my own family have had to face this tragic situation. joining us now to talk about this is aaron marie daley. thank you very much for being here. she has developed a book called "generation rx." did i say that right? >> yes. >> this book literally just came out. it's a story of dope, death and
america's opiate crisis. you lost your youngest brother, pat, five years ago. i'm so sorry about that. >> thank you. >> i know it was a hard journey for your family. tell us about pat. >> sure. he was exactly the person that you would not think that this would happen to. which is why when he became addicted to painkillers in high school, all of us were completely taken aback. he was that kid just fun-loving. he was well loved. he was so funny. full of joy, light. he fell into painkiller addiction when he was in high school. that very quickly progressed into heroin abuse. many users often go down that path as the pills become too expensive, and they make the switch to heroin, which is cheaper but provides the same high. >> you say he was secretive about this? >> very secretive about this. he was able to maintain his appearance for a lodge time. eventually we did find out about his addiction to pills, but it
wasn't until after he passed away that we learned heroin was involved. >> how did you learn that? >> i began writing the book because i was a journalist, it was my natural instinct to dig into his story and learn what happened to him and how he had fallen so far so fast. through the process of writing the book, i ordered his autopsy. that's how i learned it was heroin. >> my goodness. that must have been such a shock to your family. >> it was earth shattering. it was the kind of thing we thought would never happen to us. a lot of families feel that way. this is something that just would never touch their family. it's very stigmatized and something so unimaginable that could happen to somebody that you love, it's shocking when it happens. >> you wrote the book to help learn more about your brother but also deal with your grief. >> yes, writing the book was
very difficult because i started writing it very shortly after he passed away. so, i was very much in the throes of grief. much of the book is very raw because of that. but i also, as i started to write more about my brother, i became interested in the fact this is happening to so many other families. so i started talking to other people. hearing their stories as well. it was very bizarre because every time i interviewed somebody i felt like i was hearing my brother's story all over again. so, hearing their stories, which are also included in the book, was very difficult and depressing and sad. but it was also comforting in a weird way to know that this wasn't just something that happened to my brother. it was something happening to many people. but it just wasn't being talked about. >> you not only have written the book but also found -- you took a lot of action. you found oxi watchdog.com. what does that do? >> i found the blog when i was
writing the book. it was a way for me to figure out what was going on. i was looking through the news every day, picking out the stories about prescription drug abuse stories were ending in heroin addiction. there's a resources section for families, friends, addicts who want to get help. >> what do people say when they read your blogs? >> i've had a lot of people reach out to me and say thank you for doing this. they felt so alone. that's been nice. many of the people that write to me mention the shame. they feel they can't really come forward and admit that this is happening to people that they llo love, which i understand. >> hopefully people will come forward and get the help they need. thank you very much. >> thank you. thank you for what you're trying to do. we have to take a break. coming up next, you'll meet the united states attorney, melinda hague, who led the drug abuse
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the sportier utility vehicle. welcome back to "beyond the headlines." we are talking about the epidemic of prescription drugs killing our kids. joining me right now is the honorable melinda haag, u.s. attorney for the northern district of california and was nominated by president obama and confirmed by the u.s. senate in august of 2010. you and i had the pleasure of working together on the bullying campaign in san francisco. >> i have. >> you had everybody at the drug summit from law enforcement to public health decisionmakers to survivors there. this is near and dear to your heart. >> it is. the cdc reports that prescription drug abuse is an epidemic in the country. that view is supported by what we see and hear in the northern district of california.
i've heard from parents, educators, medical professionals, pharmacists, and we wanted to find a way to bring them together to talk about best practices, talk about data, information that will help us combat this issue together. and combating this incredible epidemic requires all of these people to come together. so we were happy we could invite everybody and that everybody came. it was a product tive meeting. your involvement was helpful. >> thank you. where do you go with all this information? something i saw, talking about pharmacies overprescribing, doctors overprescribing, that's a big thing to corral. >> it is a big thing to corral, but it's receiving a lot of attention both here in northern california and the state of california and nationally. today the director of the white house office of national drug control policy is in roanoke, virginia announcing the 2014 national drug control strategy. the very first thing on his list
is the epidemic of prescription drug abuse. the data is incredibly troubling, what -- the data we've been looking at recently. we have a 400% increase in drug overdose deaths. >> 400% increase? >> 400% increase. 60% prescription drug abuse deaths. 500% increase in treatment admissions in this country. we have reportedly more than 2 million prescription drug abuse addicts in this country. one piece of data that's troubling is that 1 out of 20 people in the country over the age of 12 report using prescription drugs without medical need. >> so you're talking about a lot of kids. >> we're talking about kids as well. >> easy access. >> it's true. unfortunately because it's a prescription, because doctors prescribe it and pharmacies dispense it, people -- including kids -- have the sense it's not dangerous. it is incredibly dangerous. we need people to understand that. that was one of the big reasons
to have the summit. >> want to talk about we run out of time about something that the doctor and our earlier segment talked about this o.d. kit. >> the attorney general of the united states, eric holder and president obama and the administration is very supportive of naloxone and these kits being in the hands of first responders. so oftentimes when people overdose on prescription drugs, they stop breathing. there's a great drug out there called naloxone, if they stop breathing, they get injected and they start breathing again. it's quite remarkable. the attorney general said publicly he encourages first responders to make sure everyone is equipped and trained to use nalaxone. >> could this be like a federal mandate to get everybody on board? >> certainly could. it's something that the administration is interested in. >> just a few more seconds. i want to ask you what can each of us do? >> we need to educate ourselves.
we need to educate friends, children, parents, everybody in our lives about this issue. we need to secure our prescription drugs. >> lock 'em up. >> 70% of people who use prescription drugs without a medical reason report getting from friends and families medicine cabinets. we need to lock it up, take advantage of drug take-back programs. the dea and local governments run drug take back programs. we need to support treatment, refer friends and family who need it to treatment. and we need to to reduce the stigma. it's a disease. we all need to understand that. there should be no stigma so people can come forward. >> thank you very much. thank you for being here. >> thank you. >> thank you for bringing attention to this. all right. that is going to do it for us. we are out of time. but we have a lot of information about today's program for you on our website, abc7news.com/community. we are also on facebook at
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