About every 19 minutes, someone dies of an accidental prescription drug overdose. This number includes those dying from both legal and illegal drugs; however, most are due to legal prescription drugs that might be in your medicine cabinet right now. Accidental overdoses from prescription drugs now exceed the combined total of deaths from heroin, crack and methamphetamines. Some experts are calling this the worst man-made epidemic.
CNN’s Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta shares his special report about accidental overdose and witnessing the epidemic first-hand in Washington State.
Prescription drug abuse is a rampant problem in Kentucky, where over 86 thousand kids are growing up without their parents—many because of this issue. In fact, Kentucky is the fourth most medicated state in the nation and has the sixth highest rate of overdose deaths. Dr. Sanjay Gupta reports on that reality from one community that is all too familiar with this "epidemic that is tearing apart family after family."
Hannah Eaton is a high school student in Rockcastle County, Kentucky. She lost both her uncle and cousin to years of prescription drug abuse. “You're constantly hearing of someone else who is dying because of abusing prescription drugs,” Eaton says.
Karen Kelly is the Executive Director of Operation Unite, a community coalition devoted to preventing overdose deaths in Kentucky like those of Eaton's relatives. She says half of the kids in Rockcastle County have no parent in the home whatsoever. “So now we're seeing many raised by great grandparents because we've lost an entire generation of young people,” Kelly says. “And, you know, the kids really are the ones paying the biggest price."
More than a dozen New York high schools are currently raising eyebrows and concern from parents for offering morning-after pulls and other birth control drugs to students. Parents may be unaware if their teens are taking the drugs, which are all part of a program called CATCH which was formed to prevent teen pregnancies. CNN's Alina Cho joins “Early Start” this morning with details on the risky initiative and how parents are responding to it.
Alino Cho reports that the schools participating in the pilot program, which has been quietly active since January of 2011, “have been picked because the students there were known to have a higher risk of getting pregnant and a lower access to healthcare.”
She cites that over 1,100 students in 14 high schools have been given the so called morning-after pill, or Plan B. “The most surprising part of all of this… is that many parents may be clueless about it. The students do not need the permission from their parents to get the pill,” and are allowed to get it unless parents sign a letter opting out of the program, says Cho.
While we’re told that the letters were sent home and mailed, “the Department of Health says that no more than two percent of parents at each school sent them back,” Cho says. Cho and Sambolin offer that kids may prevent parents from ever getting the letter. “You don’t bring it home and you intercept the mail,” Sambolin says.
The so-called 'War on Drugs' began when Richard Nixon occupied the White House. Decades later, it's hard to say we're winning.
Illicit drug use has declined by 1/3 since the 1970s, with big drops in cocaine and methamphetamine use. But prescription drug abuse has tripled in the past 20 years, with fatal overdoses involving prescription medications up nearly 400% since the end of the last century.
Later this morning, the White House's director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy Gil Kerlikowske will unveil the administration's new drug policy strategy. In an exclusive interview with Zoraida Sambolin, Kerlikowske explains the new emphasis on treatment over prosecution in the war on drugs.
"For too many years, we looked at this as mostly just a criminal justice problem," Kerlikowske says. "I was a police chief for a long time. We can't arrest our way out of this problem."
Kerlikowske goes on to explain the changes in the new plan.
"What we've seen is that the work gets done at the local level, at the state and local level, and when we propose new policies and new programs that actually help people get in to recovery, we know they're not going to continue to be recycled back through the prison system which is not only incredibly costly but really doesn't do anything to make this country safer," he says.
He adds, "There's another group of experiments going on in different departments, police departments across the country, from Providence, Rhode Island, to Seattle, Washington, in which they are looking at and using ways alternatives to both arrest and alternatives to incarcerating people that again both keep people in the community safe but also recognize the addiction and the disease problem of drugs."
See more from the interview here.
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