Carteret County Fighting Growing Prescription Drug Problem

By: April Davis/ Kelsie Smith
By: April Davis/ Kelsie Smith

The abuse of prescription drugs is a growing problem across the country and right here in the east. It's being investigated as a possible factor in the death of Whitney Houston.

Here in the east, statistics show in 2009, Carteret County had the most prescriptions written in the east and the third highest in the entire state. Law enforcement says the abuse of prescription drugs is causing crime and doctors tell us they're also seeing an increase in patients requesting narcotic pain medications.

Kelsie Smith sat down with those on the front lines of the drug battle and one woman who says she became an addict after major surgery.

"I am the face of an addict," recovering addict Amy Taylor said.

It wasn't the life 35-year-old Taylor pictured for herself.

"I was a registered nurse. I knew better. Well, I should have known better," said Taylor.

It was back in 2006 Taylor says she had gastric bypass and then 6 follow-up surgeries within a 2-year period. Taylor says after every surgery she was prescribed opiates.

"Eventually as you take them you don't take them as prescribed and you take more than you should," said Taylor.

Taylor is not alone. Doctor Michael Towarnicky of Carolina East Medical Center says the last 10-15 years has seen an explosion in prescription drug abuse.

"What I've seen is an increasing number of patients coming in and requesting narcotic pain medications for chronic pain," said Doctor Michael Towarnicky.

Dr. Towarnicky says some patients have chronic pain, however, what he's running into on a regular basis is doctor shopping: people going to multiple doctors to get multiple prescriptions. That's how Taylor says she fed her addiction .

"Part of the insanity of being an addict is running around trying to remember who you saw last," said Taylor.

And lawmen say the desperation to get prescription drugs is getting worse in Carteret County. Sheriff Asa Buck says it's also increasing the crime rate.

"About half of our cases are legal drugs and then the other half of the cases we investigate and prosecute revolve around prescription medication and diversion of those prescription drugs," said Sheriff Buck.

This growing problem prompted the Carteret County Sheriff's Office to apply for a grant through the governor's crime commission to fund an investigator who would work solely on prescription drug diversion.

"The problem here is our problem and so we're working hard to try to do what we can to combat the drug problem in our county, illegal drugs and prescription drugs." said Sheriff Buck.

Sheriff Buck says part of the problem is the availability of prescription narcotics and other highly abused drugs like anxiety medication. In 2009 just in Carteret County, there was an average of 400,000 opiod dosage units dispensed each month. With statistics showing 26 people died from prescription drugs in 2009 in Carteret County, Sheriff Buck says this is a public health concern, and he advises people to keep their prescriptions in a locked or hidden place.

"It's not hard once you're in somebody's home. If you're there legally or if you break into someone's home and you're there illegally, it's not hard to find out where the drugs are," said Sheriff Buck.

In the meantime, addicts like Amy Taylor hope to win their own battle against prescription drugs. Taylor is currently 24 days clean - this time. She relapsed in November of last year after being sober since 2007.

"I don't know what will happen tomorrow, but I know by the grace of God I have today," said Taylor.

Taylor is recovering at Hope Recovery Homes, Inc. In Morehead City. She is in a 180-day program and says although she is feeling well and taking one day at a time.

The Carteret County Sheriff's Office hopes to find out if it will receive the grant to fund an investigator position specifically for prescription drug diversion within about a month.

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  • by Anonymous on Feb 22, 2012 at 11:42 AM
    alot of young adults get adderall prescribed to them for ADD or ADHD so they say, but in fact, they get it to lose weight and then get addicted to them
    • reply
      by Anonymous on Feb 22, 2012 at 11:46 AM in reply to
      and that would be in beaufort county
      • reply
        by ReadSomething on Feb 23, 2012 at 11:40 AM in reply to
        If you read a book called "50 things you're not supposed to know" (or something like that) it cites a study by a major university that found that children who use common medications for ADHD/ADD are 80% more likely to use/abuse cocaine during their life. There is a whole serices of books by the same publisher/group in the larger book stores. Furthermore, based on my observations of young people, it seems to me that ADD/ADHD is caused by constantly watching television from infancy onward. They can no longer focus on anything after months or years of having image after image flashed at them. TV reaches their little brains in ways you can not see. If you want better, healther, functional children, turn off the TV or take it out of your home altogether. Volumes of information has been written about this if you look. Children are supposed to be raised by parents, not drugs and TV.
  • by local Location: MHC on Feb 22, 2012 at 08:45 AM
    finally i think the cops are targeting something that is very harmful, Doctors should be to blame, unless they are shady a patient should take as prescribed and not abused. Stop wasting money busting people with garbage cannabis charges and go after the REAL drugs
  • by ED Location: carteret county on Feb 22, 2012 at 06:09 AM
    My son at 8 had surgery and was given oxycodone for his pain i took one for some back pain and they are way too strong for me none the less for a 8 year i would not give it to him unless he was really complaining about pain.. I also believe if all the pharmacies would get together with some sort of program that tells them if the same person had a prescription filled within thirty days they might be able to slow down the abuse..same thing with the doctors..just my opinion tho..
  • by michelle Location: carteret on Feb 21, 2012 at 01:36 PM
    Just as much as to blame doctors, they need to shoulder some blame, there is also personal responsibility. People need to take ownership of their addiction. You can say no just as easy as you can say yes
  • by jeff Location: America on Feb 21, 2012 at 09:07 AM
    The concern here is when kids get these pills in their hands. And they can do it with relative ease! I know nobody wants to admit that their child could be using drugs, but it's true. Kids are walking around with drugs like they are carrying bubble gum. They have no fear of neither the legal nor physical health consequences of drugs. Myteensavers counselors treats teen addicts. Many of them say that they faced very few deterrents when beginning their drug use. The say that their parents did not take an active role in pushing the anti-drug message. They also say home drug testing could have prevented them or detected early drug use. Parents need to realize that they are fueling some of these drug habits with unattended prescriptions.
  • by David Loffert / My Story Location: Denver, CO on Feb 21, 2012 at 07:31 AM
    My pathway to addiction started when I made an appointment to see Dr. Cary Suter, M.D. for migraine headaches. I put great trust in him due to the fact that he was the medical schools doctor and was responsible for taking care of the students enrolled in the medical school programs. In a timeframe of 8 months I was prescribed 6,647 controlled substance pills. I had pills to help me stay awake and study, pills for helping me sleep, pills for anxiety, and pills for pain. I knew about addiction but I thought I was too intelligent to become addicted. Anyway, these pills were provided to me by the schools doctor who said he had taken pills when he was in medical school to help him succeed. My ignorance would cause me to lose almost a decade of my life and would bring me close to death many times as a result of my severe drug addiction. It has been a long, arduous, and self-revealing journey through my 9 years of addiction to recovery. Unfortunately along the way I became deceitful, dishonest, unreliable, and untrustworthy. On the other hand I can proclaim that through my suffering and adversity came great rewards and prosperity. Today, I will continue to advocate for those affected by this disease of addiction. It is a passion and a pathway that I will pursue for the rest of my life. Please visit www.fromhopkinstohomeless for further information about my story
  • by Ben Location: Kinston on Feb 21, 2012 at 05:24 AM
    If the information is available to support these statistics, then the information is available on which doctors are responsible for writing the majority of the prescriptions. It may take some determination and some digging to identify these doctors but if any of them are running a "prescription mill" for personal gain their license to practice medicine should be revoked.
    • reply
      by danielle on Feb 27, 2012 at 07:54 PM in reply to Ben
      There are going after doctors, but it takes people to set up and say that the doctors are doing this...the problem is that an addict will do whatever it takes, doctors and pharmacies need to work together and with each other
  • by Great story Location: Nc on Feb 20, 2012 at 06:25 PM
    Not so much! Why wouldn't you actually talk to professionals in the substance abuse field that might have provided you with more information than a dr admitting to people doctor shopping. I hope this story wasn't an attempt to educate the public about rx drug abuse.
  • by Chris Location: Greenville on Feb 20, 2012 at 06:03 PM
    I can't get a pain killer for a broke back other that Motrin. But my wife can get narcs for rough period. Cause Im a white man I must have drug seeking behavior.
  • by Growing? on Feb 20, 2012 at 03:22 PM
    I didn't know you could grow prescriptions. The sandy soil must be perfect for the formation of the pill boxes they germinate in. I always thought all those white things in the field were cotton balls. I guess they were raw pills before they cut them.
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