Teens abusing prescription drugs

MULLICA HILLl, N.J.; September 18, 2008

Charlotte Andrews, of Mullica Hill, N.J., said her son Shawn was a motor-head from the time he was little. In high school, he had lots of friends and a girlfriend. He went to church, and still liked fixing up old cars. But by the time he turned 19, his life was spiraling out of control. Shawn started using prescription drugs like oxycontin while he was in high school. He got the drugs then from friends. "Partying on Friday nights, nothing to do" said Charlotte.

Then she said he hurt his back and was given a prescription for the drug. He soon started crushing and snorting oxycontin and quickly became addicted. When he lost his health insurance, he switched to a cheaper drug, heroin.

"He started going into Camden and getting it and that's when we realized it was a problem," Charlotte said, adding, "It just went out of control, severe depression set in when he couldn't have it. It was a fight within himself to know he didn't want to live his life like that but yet the terrible craving in his mind that he couldn't overcome - there were a lot of tears shed on this floor."

She said he was in and out of rehab. When he finally got clean, he was given a Fentanyl patch by a doctor for his back pain. "(We) thought a pain patch would be safe, nothing he can snort. But he cut it open and licked the Fentanyl out of the patch," Charlotte said.

That overdose killed him. He was 21 years old.

Now Charlotte has started a parent group that aims to save lives. The group meets at Clearview Regional High School. And while the superintendent there doesn't think the problem is any worse at Clearview, the school board supports the group and wants to be proactive about the problem.

"If you have information that there are issues out there and you don't address them, I think you are negligent," said superintendent John Horchak.

The parents have started a T-shirt campaign, hoping to get teens to save their friends. Rowan University has also donated informational pamphlets for parents and students.

Experts say some possible warning signs for drug use include:

-disappearance of money or valuables

-a change in sleeping habits

-overuse of over-the-counter products to treat red eye or nasal irritation

-messy appearance or poor grooming

Anne Prickett, who also joined the parent group, said about her son, "I noticed a complete change in his look, his grooming, his lack of wanting to do anything." She said he is now recovering, but his dreams of college have been wiped away.

Charlotte printed Shawn's poems, the ones he wrote in rehabilitation, on his memorial card.

One poem reads: I will no longer be a victim No longer part of the system. I will live to be free I will be free to be me.

Now she's hopes his words will keep other teenagers from going down the path he couldn't get away from. "Never touch it, Never touch (drugs,) you're stepping into the darkness and you will never come out of it," Charlotte said.

Charlotte is hoping to expand the campaign throughout the school year and also to other communities. Donations for the campaign can be sent to:

Commerce bank, c/o Parents against drugs, 148 N. Main St., Mullica Hill, NJ. 08062

For prevention tips and what to do if you think your teenager is using drugs, visit:

Partnership for a Drug Free America

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