Prescription drug deaths more common in rural communities
However, in his experience working in Northeastern California and Nevada rural communities, client related deaths are prescription drugs addicts.
“We’ve seen several die in this community in the last couple of years,” he said.
Heroine is not a popular drug in rural areas, Dornon said, nor is it as available as prescription drugs.
Personally, Dornon said, the two main drugs he’s seen in the rural areas are oxycontin and methadone.
While working in L.A., Dornon said the primary drug of choice was methamphetamine and in the mid-1990s the main drug was cocaine. But he said it isn’t uncommon for drug addicts and alcoholics to steal medications from friends or relatives in order to get high.
As an example, Dornon said someone could go visit their grandparents, look through their medicine cabinet and take some of their medication.
If an addict didn’t have their drug of choice with them, they could pop a pill to get the same effects, he said.
The largest portion of clients the Lassen County Alcohol and Drug Department serves are alcohol and marijuana users and approximately 20 percent are prescription drug addicts.
For those using the prescriptions for medical purposes, Dornon said they have a physical dependency, but might not display characteristics of an addict and wouldn’t understand they have a physical dependency to the medication.
Whereas, others with addictive behavior will scheme and develop plots by which they can get more and more prescriptions in order to get high and stay high, Dornon said.
In addition, people build up tolerance to the drugs and can take high amounts.
He said, “The longer people use medication the higher the tolerance is and the higher the dosage is needed to achieve the effect.”
The problem happens when someone who doesn’t have a tolerance to opiates or other drugs takes the medication.
“The central nervous system doesn’t have the tolerance for a large dosage,” Dornon said.
And it could cause problems, including death, he said.
Methadone and Oxycontin
Ten years ago, you wouldn’t hear of methadone being used for pain relief, said Dornon.
Rather, it was used to help heroine addicts and was used for narcotic replacement therapy.
In Reno, Dornon said there are at least three methadone clinics for heroine addicts to go to.
He said methadone could be considered an acceptable form of recovery, allowing people to stop using and dealing drugs in the streets and to find employment and housing.
However, Dornon said it is much more difficult and dangerous to detox off of methadone.
He said methadone is synthetic and is very potent and stays in the body longer than a natural opiate would.
In addition, it is also difficult for people who are using methadone for chronic pain.
Oxycontin has similar properties to heroine and provides a greater euphoric affect.
“It is the most potent pain reliever out there,” he said.
Teens have easy access to prescription drugs and Dornon said when found, teens can sell and distribute them.
What has become a really important message is to tell family members to keep their medications locked up and not accessible to teens, he said.
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