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Drug Problem – Behind The Orange Curtain – Orange County, California

Hopefully, everyone by now knows that there is a huge drug problem in our neighborhoods, my own neighborhood, Laguna Niguel included.

There is a tsunami of parents in this area that are leading the march to bring prescription drug addiction to the forefront of every conversation, so parents can understand that by the grace of God, this could be your child and in most cases, it was their child.

The first fact you might want to know is this: Prescription drug abuse does not discriminate. It does not care about your social, economic or educational status. It doesn’t matter if you live on Park Avenue or The Park Bench. Open mouth, insert pill and it leads to ONE BAD CHOICE.

In fact the problem is in every city, in every state, across this country. Last Thursday another young man from this area passed away. He struggled with addiction and it was that one last time that ended his life. His funeral service is Tuesday. Today we heard of another young man who died from an overdose. This is not stopping.

The OxyContin problem is larger than you can imagine and has affected just about everyone in some way. Either you know of someone who died or is addicted, someone in your family has died or is addicted or someone you meet knows someone who has died or is addicted. We are now about one degree of separation from this epidemic.

History on the Drug

Back in 1997 Purdue Pharma started an aggressive marketing campaign to get doctors of all persuasions to prescribe this drug for anything from a sprained ankle to wisdom teeth extraction. Even the FDA got into the mix by stating that because the drug was “timed released” the drug was “believed to reduce” the potential for addiction.

Between 1996 and 2001 the push was on to get the word out about this new wonder drug.”Big Pharma” had a designated army of sale reps dedicated to just spreading the word on the new wonder drug. The number of salespeople dedicated solely to OxyContin jumped from 318 to 767 and the sales of the drug led to $2.8 billion in revenue.

In an article published April 24 by Tim Cheney, the facts stated: “OxyContin accounts for 84.9 percent of opioid prescriptions. 202 million opiod prescriptions in 2009. Purdue Pharma Oxycontin revenues 2010: 3.1 billion; 2009 2.8 billion. OxyContin accounts for approximately 90 percent of Purdue Pharma revenues.”

Well the suits at Purdue got busted for misbranding and misrepresenting their product. They pleaded guilty and were ordered to pay $634.5 million in fines for claiming the drug was less addictive and less subject to abuse than other pain management medications. Is this going to bring back the ones we lost? No, but hopefully it will open some eyes and some minds.

During the research for our film Behind The Orange Curtain, the main focus was the shock regarding the number of deaths from this beautiful affluent Southern California area. We have tree-lined streets, gated communities, Blue Ribbon schools and amazing sports activities to keep the kids active and off the streets. What makes a good kid from a good family take drugs in the first place never mind such high voltage pain killers that are extremely addictive and kill.

What we have come to find out, there is no simple answer.These are good kids from good homes making bad, stupid choices in the name of fun.They open mouth, insert pill, and the road to hell is paved. About three out of 100 comeback from an opioid addiction and then it’s a lifelong battle. The consensus was unanimous in our interview for the film – the feeling they got from that first pill – was a feeling they wanted to feel the rest of their lives. Many stay addicted because the detoxification is so painful, that it’s easier to stay under the influence than to get clean.

What we also learned is the “sweet spot” for experimentation with drugs, alcohol, tobacco is between the ages of 12 and 15. The goal is to get to the parents and let them know what is going on in our communities, in our middle schools and high schools.

What might start out as popping a few pills for a few giggles with the group, turns into a mighty strong addiction.The cost of Oxy is about $10 a milligram and very quickly the addiction moves to 80 mgs and many take 8-10 a day. Mary McElreddy, Special Agent from the DEA, stated that the switch to heroin is inevitable because it costs less and produces the same high. So many start off smoking heroin (chasing the dragon) and some eventually start shooting it.

Many share the drugs which is extremely dangerous. By scraping off the time release coating on the drug, they get the full effects of the drug as they ingest it – as the time release has been taken away.

Learn the term “dirty doctors” because they are out there in more places that you can imagine. There are thousands of loving and caring doctors, and healthcare providers but there are many that are just rotten to the core.

Recently, a doctor was arrested for allegedly selling prescriptions in a Starbucks. “Patients” would come into Starbucks, meet the doctor, he would have them touch their toes and check their blood pressure, the “patient” would hand them cash and they were out of there with a prescription for OxyContin, Xanax, Opana or whatever they needed. He was also caring for patients in a car dealership and a Las Vegas casino.

Dr. Lisa Tseng from Roland Heights was arrested and charged with three counts of murder, and 10 more are pending. In the past three years she has written 27,000 prescriptions for pain medication – even to undercover drug agents.

Opana is the new pharmaceutical street drug. This drug was originally given to end-stage brain cancer patients or patients who had massive surgeries. One young woman thought she was snorting cocaine and it was in fact Opana. Mark Melkonian took the drug and went to sleep, and when his brother tried to wake him for school the next morning, his body was cold.

Congresswoman Mary Bono Mack is supporting Behind The Orange Curtain and makes an appearance in the film. Despite anyone’s party affiliation, she is a very loud voice for us in Washington. She herself knows firsthand the problem with opioid drugs, as her son had an addiction to OxyContin. She has legislation pending in Washington on the prescription drug problem in the United States.

My heart goes out to the parents who have lost their children in such a senseless preventable way. Every day they wake up, brush their teeth and look into the mirror, and have to deal with the fact that their child is gone.

None of us can be so brave as to think this will not happen to my child. Sylvia, Jodi, Vernon, Judy (and the list goes on and on) never thought that they would have to bury their child.

More to discuss later like the Good Samaritan Law AB472 (Ammiano), Nalaxone, and CURES prescription monitoring system in California.