A new campaign in Iowa targeting the misuse of prescription drugs was launched today. Dale Woolery, with the Governor’s Office of Drug Control Policy, noted prescription drug abuse is the fastest growing form of substance abuse in the state. “Calls to the Poison Control Center in Iowa regarding prescription pain relievers have increased about 2,300-percent over the last decade,” Woolery said at a press conference in Cedar Rapids.
In addition, substance abuse treatment facility admissions for prescription pain relievers have increased 700-percent. “While we have the overall lowest rate of prescription drug abuse in the nation, as a state, we can’t rest on our laurels because we still have too much…too many people getting hurt and, tragically, too many people die,” Woolery said.
A national report issued this week shows the number of deaths in Iowa from drug overdoses has quadrupled in just 11 years. The new “Talk, Lock, Connect” campaign is focused on prescription drug abuse among young people. A recent survey of Iowa 11th graders found six-percent admitted to using or abusing prescription drugs within the last year.
Emily Blomme, with the Iowa Substance Abuse Information Center, believes many teens try pharmaceuticals to get high — thinking the drugs are safe. “I think there’s a myth out there that because prescription drugs aren’t illegal drugs, they’re less of a threat or they’re more safe,” Blomme said. “The reality is, depending how it’s taken and if it’s not taken by the person it’s prescribed to, it can be just as dangerous.”
Taryn Erbes, a 17-year-old senior at Cedar Rapids Kennedy High School, spoke at the news conference. She’s in treatment for abusing prescription drugs such as OxyContin and Xanex. “It was really easy to get (the drugs) on the street and really easy to get it from my friends,” Taryn said. She first took prescription pills at a party. Before long, Taryn was popping pills every day.
“It just progressed so fast, to the point that I was put in the hospital. I knew then that I really needed help and I wanted the help,” Taryn said. Taryn’s mother, Melissa, recalled her daughter growing “more distant” as her grades slipped and she dropped out of school activities.
Melissa never suspected her daughter was abusing prescription meds. “You know, this is a conversation we never had…I mean, we definitely had the drug conversation, but prescription drugs were never part of it,” Melissa said. Radio and TV ads for the “Talk, Lock, Connect” campaign encourage parents to discuss the dangers of pharmaceutical drugs with their kids.