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A pill problem
Prescription drug abuse cases on rise
Pills Death 5 es
A photo of Stephen and Nick Myers as children is displayed in a memorial video. Both died after taking methodone, Stephen in 2004 and Nick in February. - photo by Emily Saunders
Losing a child to drug abuse is a tragedy Mark Myers has endured twice.

The Forsyth County resident’s 28-year-old son, Nicholas Myers, died Feb. 18 after ingesting methadone. In December 2004 Myers’ 20-year-old son, Stephen Myers, died after taking the same drug.

He said he hopes parents will learn from his situation.

“Get them into a treatment center and if they’ve been there, take them back again,” Myers said. “Don’t give up and don’t say you don’t have the money, because you will have the money for a funeral.”

Myers said a doctor prescribed methadone to his older son to battle an addiction to prescription painkillers.

“He shouldn’t have been going to a family doctor,” Myers said. “He should’ve gone to a treatment center.”

He said not only did his son fill the prescription, he traded some of the pills for other synthetic narcotics.

He said his younger son took methadone at a party one night and after some friends noticed he didn’t look well, they took him home to sleep it off. He was found dead the next day.

“The hardest thing in the world to do is bury your kid,” Myers said.

According to information published on the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s Web site, methadone is primarily used to treat addiction to narcotics, particularly heroin, but it is increasingly being prescribed to treat chronic pain.

The site goes on to show that “recent increases in the use of methadone for pain management have been associated with increasing numbers of overdose deaths.”

It also shows that oxycodone, which is used in Roxicodone, Oxycontin and other prescription painkillers, has historically been popular among drug abusers.

The synthetic narcotic, when in the form of Oxycontin, is released slowly into the body over about 12 hours. However, those abusing it crush the tablets and then swallow, snort or inject the drug in order to get a “more rapid and intense high.”

“The criminal activity associated with illicitly obtaining and distributing this drug, as well as serious consequences of illicit use, including addiction and fatal overdose deaths, are of epidemic proportions in some areas of the United States,” the site shows.

According to local authorities, illegal prescription drug use in the area is growing.

Lt. Col. Gene Moss of the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office said the recent arrests of five people in unrelated incidents involving illegally obtained medications are still under investigation. In one case, authorities confiscated nearly 1,400 pills when they searched two rooms at a local hotel.

About 887 of those pills were synthetic narcotics: Oxycontin, Roxicodone and Xanax, which is used to treat anxiety.

Moss said the case highlights the significance of the amount of synthetic narcotics being disbursed illegally throughout the county.

“We’ve been seeing a lot more of it over the last few months,” he said, adding that the drugs are highly addictive.

“We’re seeing the demand for them and the supply around the county,” he said.

Moss said synthetic narcotics seem to be most popular among 15- to 25-year-olds. He said the medications are often found at home, in the family medicine cabinet.

“We caution parents to keep a close watch on their prescription drugs and if they’ve got them and aren’t using them or don’t need them, they need to destroy them,” he said.

Myers said his son, Nicholas, had been no stranger to authorities and had struggled with drug addiction. He had also tried treatment programs, but his son was unsuccessful in following the lessons he learned.

Myers said when he arrived at his son’s apartment after his death, a friend told him they’d been heavily using drugs for a couple of months.

One suggestion Myers had for parents who suspect their children may be abusing drugs is to make them take an at-home drug test.

“The best advice I could say is do anything you have to and don’t worry about the consequences of them getting angry or wanting to walk out the door.”