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Prescription Drug Abuse Continues To Take Toll In San Diego

The latest San Diego County Prescription Drug Abuse Report Card reveals some disturbing numbers.

The epidemic of prescription drug abuse shows no signs of abating in San Diego County.

The county's 2016 Prescription Drug Abuse Report Card shows 248 people died last year from an overdose.

Compared to the previous year, the number of people who were treated in an emergency room for problems with prescription painkillers rose by 20 percent.

Law enforcement officials said more and more of the prescription narcotics sold on the street are laced with dangerous drugs like fentanyl.

San Diego County Sheriff’s Department Capt. Todd Richardson said people who use pills that aren’t prescribed to them are taking a chance.

“This just increases the stakes dramatically, because you really don’t know whether you’re getting a pharmacist-approved, legally manufactured drug, or you’re getting one of these pure, counterfeit, black-market substances with no controls, whatsoever," he explained.

County resident Susan Foster Nussbaum lost her son, Gabriel, to a prescription drug overdose in 2011. He had just turned 24.

Photo credit: Kris Arciaga

Susan Foster Nussbaum holds a photograph of her son, Gabriel, who died of a prescription drug overdose in 2011, shown on Oct. 20, 2016.

When Nussbaum first became aware of her son’s addiction to Oxycontin, she went to the see the doctor who had prescribed the drug.

“And we begged and pleaded to please do not prescribe anything. Gabriel is going into treatment. And don’t do it anymore," Nussbaum recalled telling the doctor. "Well, it didn’t happen, 'cause when Gabriel passed away, he had prescription drugs from this doctor in his body.”

Another major source of prescription narcotics are people’s medicine cabinets.

San Diegans can drop off any unused prescription drugs in special collection boxes located at Sheriff’s stations countywide. The department said it collects nearly 15,000 pounds of drugs each year.

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