Feb 13, 2012 10:20 PM by Nikki Ibarra

Local counselor says prescription drug abuse is a "quiet epidemic"

Although Whitney Houston battled prescription drug addiction for years, it is too soon to know if drugs were a cause for her death.

We do know, however, that prescription drug abuse is a very big problem in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 100 people die from drug overdoses everyday in the US; and nearly 3 of 4 drug overdoses are caused by prescription painkillers.

KSBY spoke to a Santa Maria drug counselor Monday and she said prescription drug addiction has been happening for years. It just feels like it's on the rise. But accessing it is extremely easy.

"It's almost a quiet epidemic and nobody really talks about it and nobody really sees it," said Donna Flores, program manager of Project P.R.E.M.I.E. in Santa Maria.

At Project P.R.E.M.I.E., 3 out of every 10 women who enter the program have abused prescription drugs. "Whether you're not sleeping well or you have some sort of pain, a backache, a toothache, you get these drugs prescribed by the doctor. They're socially acceptable," said Flores.

Project P.R.E.M.I.E. is in conjunction with the Good Samaritan. The program helps mothers who have been affected by substance abuse.

"Sometimes people think that [prescriptions] are not as harmful as they are because they're prescribed. They're legal but they're very dangerous," said Cyndi Cabacungan, drug and alcohol counselor at Project P.R.E.M.I.E.

But this problem extends far beyond the Central Coast. According to the CDC, drug overdose death rates in the US have more than tripled since 1990. In 2008, more than 36,000 people died from drug overdose, and most of these deaths were caused by prescription drugs.

Project P.R.E.M.I.E. recommends you get rid of those prescription drugs once you're done using them. For more information, click under News Links.


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