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Special Report: Prescription Drug Abuse Part I

50 Americans die from prescription drug overdoses every day. It's estimated that more than 6 million people suffer from prescription drug abuse disorders. The growing problem is quickly becoming a top public health and public safety concern.

Statistics show nearly 1,200 people died in North Carolina in 2011 as a result of unintentional poisonings. Most of them from misusing or abusing prescription drugs called "opiods", like Oxycodone or Hydrocodone.

Dr. Chris Flanaders is the medical director of Mission Hospital's Emergency Department. He says the biggest problem with opioid drug use is that your body begins to tolerate it.

"You have to take more and more to get that same affect to get that high to get that numbness and unfortunately the part of your brain that controls breathing it doesn't get tolerate and there's a certain cut off where it stops working and you stop breathing," said Dr. Flanders.

Methadone is a drug used to help people hooked on prescription drugs. It is also causing deaths in our region. From 2001 to 2005, Buncombe County had a total of 43 methadone deaths. The sheriff's office say methadone now causes more than twice as many deaths as heroin. Drug agents in the Henderson County are seeing problems with methadone too.

Drug agents say prescription pills are taking over their streets. The problem, according to authorities, is that it's too easy to get the pills. A recent study shows enough painkillers were prescribed in 2010 to medicate every adult in America continuously for a month. Authorities fear the problem will only get worse if more regulations are not put in place soon.

That's where Hope RX hopes to make a difference. It's a coalition of law enforcement, the judicial system, doctors, and educators. Their goal is to tackle prescription drug abuse in Henderson County head-on.

Hope RX is also also getting help from parents who have lost a loved one to addiction. Julie and Don Huneycutt's 20-year-old daughter, Anna, died from an overdose in 2010.

With everyone working together, Hope RX believes they can achieve the change necessary to curb the epidemic and save more lives.


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