Concerns Over Prescription Drug Use Grows In Ohio


Danielle Smoot describes her son Cole as a stereotypical 16 year old - happy and active, who made one tragic mistake.

"There was a huge amount of drugs that came into our local school," said Danielle.  "There was a lot of use.  A lot of the athletes were using it.  Cole gave in and took a pill that was not his."

That pill was Methadone and just hours after he swallowed it, Cole died.

"Even though it hurts every single second of every day I don't ever want to get to the point it doesn't hurt, because then he's not as strongly with me," said Danielle.

Danielle now helps educate other parents about the dangers of prescription drugs.  Unfortunately, their use isn't that uncommon.

"One of the common misconceptions teens have is they're safe," said Danielle.  "You know, if a doctor prescribes it, if mom or dad is taking it or even if my friends are taking it that it has to be okay for me.  And it can't be further from the truth."

Cheri Walter knows firsthand the dangers of opiates.  She says her mom battled prescription drug addiction for over 20 years.

And she's had her own struggle with drugs, including a suicide attempt.

"This is the number one accidental killer of Ohioans," said Cheri.  "It is not just middle aged folks.  It is young kids using prescription drugs.  It is the elderly that is using prescription drugs."

Cheri, who is now the CEO of the Association of County Behavioral Health Authorities, points out that pain relievers have resulted in more overdose deaths in Ohio than heroin and cocaine combined.

"Frankly it crosses all economic lines from the poor to the rich, all ethnicities.  It's affecting everyone," Cheri said.

Senator Rob Portman told health advocates in Columbus Tuesday that drug prevention is key.

"It's never going to go away entirely, but we know that through prevention and effective treatment we can stem the tide," said Portman.

In 2011, Portman authored bipartisan legislation that created a national standard for states to exchange prescription drug information.  In addition, he's been seeking additional federal funds to assist Ohio drug control efforts.

"Yes, there's some funding required, but funding up front to prevent it," said Portman.  "Then funding to deal with it from a treatment basis will save money over the long haul."

Danielle says her hope her son's death will stop others from repeating Cole's mistake.

"The recurring theme is that these are great kids who made horrible decisions," she said.

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