JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Pain medication abuse is a growing epidemic around the nation and a direct problem right here in Region 8. But one organization in Jonesboro is taking on the issue head-on to keep the addiction from filtering into even harder drugs.
"It's not going to run away from us. It's an epidemic," said Skip Mooney, Jr., who works with "Out of the Dark", an organization that brings light to drug addiction in Craighhead County.
A recent report of the Center of Disease Control found overdose deaths related to pain medications has boomed over the past decade. Arkansas is one of the leaders. "In 2007 we were number one in the county, in the entire United States," said Mooney.
The report found nearly 1 in 20 people across the country, 12 and older, were using these drugs such as hydrocodone, methadone, and oxycodone, non-medically. Mooney says 70% percent is the pills are coming from the cabinets.
"I believe it's a lot worst than that. The seventy percent comes from cabinets, that's teenagers. But we have a lot of young adults that are addicted to opium and those people are buying them on the street," said Mooney.
Mooney goes on to say those abusing the drugs aren't necessary taking them in the pill form. "They are crushing them up, they're snorting them, or running them up. Just like heroin," said Mooney.
It's an addiction that Mooney says is opening doors to harder drugs, like heroin, which is a trend being seen across the county. "What we've been seeing is that you get a lot of kids hooked on pain narcotics and they run out of money, their families have gotten rid of them, they don't have jobs and they go out and go to cheaper stuff, and heroin's cheaper," said Mooney.
Recently, several Police Departments across the state conducted Drug Take Back Events to help prevent medications like, pain killers, from getting into the wrong hands. With over 11-thousand medications collected this go around, progress has been made. Mooney says it's all about educating the community, and it starts with the youth.
"We've started "out of the Dark" school chapters is every school district. Some have more than one. We just had our student march and rally about 660 kids over there all about stop addiction. All about talking about drug abuse," said Mooney.