Public forum in Milton warns of prescription drug danger

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Thursday, March 4, 2010
— A public forum Wednesday at Milton City Hall gave local officials a chance to talk about a growing threat facing area teens. It resides in the home medicine cabinet.

That threat is prescription drugs.

Wednesday’s forum was, in part, a response to the Feb. 9 fatal OxyContin overdose of Alexander Aiken, 13, of Milton township. A 13-year-old friend of the boy also was hospitalized, allegedly suffering a drug overdose.

For one resident, the forum was a chance to pour out her concern about prescription drug use.

Jennifer Bethel, Aiken’s mother, was at the forum Wednesday, announcing that a toxicology report on her son’s death was released to the family Wednesday afternoon.

She said the report showed Aiken had overdosed on OxyContin.

“I miss my son more and more every day, if that’s possible. I’ll never get to hold him. I’ll never get to hear him laugh,” Bethel said.

But a speaker at the forum, Jeanne Erickson, said it is not too late for area parents to pull the plug on youth prescription drug abuse.

Erickson is an expert in adolescent brain development and a program director for Madison-based TNT’s “Youth Safety First—Lock It Up Campaign” The program’s purpose is self-evident—it focuses on securing prescription medications in homes, and emphasizes their proper disposal.

Among others attending Wednesday’s forum were Rock County Sheriff Robert Spoden, Milton Police Chief Jerry Schuetz and Milton High School Principal Jeremy Billhorn.

Erickson said that in the teen years, the brains of young people are still developing. The delicate balance of brain chemistry mixed with normal hormonal processes in teens can lead to impulsive, risk-taking decisions, she said.

“At least 99 percent of us have at least one episode in our lives that we can look back and say, ‘My god, what was I thinking?’ ”

At social gatherings, authorities say teens often aren’t thinking about the risks of taking prescription pills. Often, officials say, teens don’t even know what they are taking. Erickson said that results in dangerous drug interactions and side effects.

Rock County sheriff’s deputy Charles Behm said he recalls breaking up a youth pill party only to find several teens snorting ground up anti-diarrhea pills.

Regardless of what pills teens may be taking, Behm said, they can be a gateway to heroin use.

Behm pointed out that one prescription pill can have a street value as high as $80. Compare that to the $10 street value of a bag of heroin, Behm said, and for a teen with a growing dependency on drugs, switching from pills to heroin is a matter of simple economics.

But that pattern doesn’t have to play out, Milton Police Lt. John Conger told the group of about two dozen parents at the forum.

Conger said people can lock up and secure their medications. He added that proper disposal of unused medications can keep dangerous prescription drugs from falling into the hands of young people.

The Rock County Health Department will host a prescription drug round-up from 9 to 11 a.m. April 17. The drop-off site will be The Gathering Place, 715 Campus St., Milton.

Other drop-off locations include the Janesville Water Utility, 123 Delavan Drive; the Edgerton city garage, 315 W. High St., and the Beloit Department of Public Works, 2351 Springbrook Court.

In concluding the forum Wednesday, Bethel gave parents a sobering reminder to protect their children from the dangers of prescription drugs.

“You have to talk to your children and tell them it only takes one pill,” she said.

Last updated: 1:16 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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