Prescription drug abuse becoming a growing problem
MANSFIELD -- The conviction of an Ashland man and the death of two teenagers high on Xanax underscores the severity of prescription-drug abuse and the effect it has on a community, METRICH Detective Dawn Brown said Wednesday.
Brown was part of the prescription-drug abuse workshop presented by Community Action for Capable Youth at the Longview Center.
"I think that is a very significant case because we need to hold these people accountable," said Brown, a member of the 10-county drug task force charged with stemming the flow of illegal narcotics into the area. "Like anything else, if they think they can get away with it, they're going to keep doing it."
B. Whitney Uselton, 20, was convicted last week in Ashland County Common Pleas Court of two counts of involuntary manslaughter and three counts of drug trafficking. Uselton sold Xanax to Adam Howell, 19, and Michael Roberts, 16, who later died when their car slammed into a brick wall near U.S. 42 south of Ashland.
Mansfield Police Crime Lab Director Anthony J. Tambasco said prescription drug cases flowing into the lab have more than doubled in the last three years. Abused prescription-drugs submitted to the lab represented 4 percent of the drug caseload in 1999 and 10 percent in 2002. Thirty-two cases have been submitted for the first three months of 2003, Tambasco said.
OxyContin, a powerful painkiller, represented almost a third of the cases, with Vicodin coming in second and Xanax making the top three.
Xanax is the most often abused prescription medication on the nation's streets today, according to the National Forensic Laboratory Information System.
Brown urged audience not to discount prescription-drug abuse. She said 10 percent of the work force has abused prescription drugs and up to 5 percent abuse medication on a regular basis, costing U.S. businesses $140 billion a year and leading to loss of productivity, morale problems, safety issues and increased medical costs.
"The cost of drugs in the workplace is staggering," Brown said. "They'll do whatever they need to do to get the drugs they need. If you know a coworker is using drugs, that creates a liability for you and your company and you're required to do something about it. Failure to report a crime is a crime."
She said many people abusing prescription drugs use their health insurance to help cover the cost.
"I can't tell you that one drug is worse than another to the individual who has the addiction," Brown said. "No one wants to be a drug addict but sometimes it doesn't stop a person. If we don't choose to get involved, we're enabling the person to continue with their addiction."