August 15th, 2012

Young painkiller abusers increasingly turning to heroin

With the steady rise of prescription drug abuse across the state, young pill addicts are succumbing in increasing numbers to another vice: heroin.

For 22-year-old Anna Taylor from Dana Point (pictured), the path to heroin addiction began by pilfering a family member’s medicine cabinet. More than 70% of first-time abusers of prescription pain relievers obtain the drugs from friends or relatives for free, according to a recent federal analysis.

“I don’t want to be the 90 percent that relapse,” said Taylor, who said she’s been sober for nearly three months. “I want to be the 10 percent where I make it. I want to remember my life,” she said.

Read the powerful story, produced in collaboration with KQED News, on the rise in heroin-related overdoses among California’s youth here.

Do you know a loved one dealing with heroin or painkiller addiction? Visit our resource guide to learn more and let us know how we might be able to create a more effective toolkit for teachers, families and friends who want to share information on handling opioid and heroin addiction. 

Photo by Daniel A. Anderson/California Watch

July 12th, 2012

East Bay doctor under fire for prolific painkiller prescriptions

Meet Dr. Edward Manougian, an East Bay physician who has ordered so many OxyContin pills for low-income patients that he ranked as one of the state’s most prolific prescribers. Until the California medical board stopped his prescribing last year, Manougian ordered patients to take doses of opiate pain pills that are three to 12 times higher than what doctors consider high. His prescriptions have been linked to three patient deaths. 

Now, Manougian’s practice has drawn the attention of federal investigators. The case raises the question: Given the widespread problems of overdose and addiction related to opioid painkillers, when does prescribing actually exacerbate the suffering it’s meant to ease? 

Read our full investigation here. To learn more about the issues surrounding opioid abuse, check out our resources on React & Act.

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California Watch, the largest investigative journalism team operating in the state, was launched in 2009 by the nonprofit, nonpartisan Center for Investigative Reporting. Areas of coverage include education, health and welfare, public safety, the environment and the influence of money on the political and regulatory process.