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Auten to lead panel on prescription drug abuse

By Kathy Chaffin
kchaffin@salisburypost.com
Capt. Kevin Auten of the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office will head up the Department of Social Services subcommittee on teen prescription drug abuse.
The Board of Social Services appointed Auten, who has 14 years experience with the Sheriff’s Office drug unit, as chairman of the subcommittee. DSS board members also approved a list of members for the subcommittee with two additions.
They include outgoing Chairman Dr. Nilous Avery and Detective Ernie Kirchin of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department.
Kirchin, who lives in Salisbury and will be retiring soon, will bring a wealth of information to the subcommittee, Auten said. Kirchin has been a drug investigator for more than 10 years, he said, and has held state and national offices with the National Association of Drug Diversion Investigators (NADDI).
Board member Jim Sides said he would like to see more Salisbury officials on the list and suggested that someone contact the City Council to see if anyone wants to serve.
Many of the names on the list were members of the Community Child Protection Team, who volunteered to serve after voting to ask the Board of Social Services to appoint a subcommittee.
Auten, in a telephone interview on Thursday, said he said he and Social Services Director Sandra Wilkes are looking at dates for the first subcommittee meeting to discuss goals and come up with a plan to accomplish them.
Prescription drug abuse among teens has increased over the last five to seven years, he said, as a trickle-down from adults. “If it’s popular with the adults, it doesn’t take long for the kids to figure it out.”
In talking with Tim Smith, director of student services for the Rowan-Salisbury School System, Auten said signs of prescription drug abuse are beginning to show up in students as early as elementary school. Students seem to have transitioned from using marijuana and alcohol to prescription drugs, he said.
“We’ve seen an increase in the number of incidents in the schools this year,” Auten said. “I don’t mean that to sound like there were hundreds of them, but certainly compared to what we would have seen three, four, five years ago, it has increased.”
One reason for this may be that prescription drug use is easier for children to hide from their parents than marijuana and alcohol use because of the odor. Auten said he thinks most youths start abusing prescription drugs because their friends do it. “It’s word of mouth among the kids.”
The prescription drugs most commonly abused by youth are those in the hydrocodone family, he said, including Lortab and Loret. Valium and Xanax are also popular.
“Probably the most common way they get them is to go into a medicine cabinet at a family member’s house,” he said. “They just pick out what’s not been used or has set there for years.”
Youths also get or buy prescription drugs from friends. Auten said the price on the street fluctuates from $3 to $7 a pill depending on how many are purchased at a time.
“We don’t hear or have information on young folks using oxycontin as much,” he said, “but we’ve been through the horrific time when that was the drug of choice.”
Auten said he expects the subcommittee to partner with other groups and programs. “There’s several groups that already have this same interest,” he said.
One is the new LINKS (Learning, Intervention, Nurturing, Knowledge and Student Achievement) program, which is planning to do a survey of students in the Rowan-Salisbury Schools. Auten said he hopes to be able to work with Program Director Carol Ann Houpe to see if questions about prescription drug abuse can be included on the surveys.
“It would at least give us a baseline,” he said. “Then we could see where we stand as a county.”
Auten said the other focus of the subcommittee will be to educate the public on the problem of teen prescription drug abuse and encourage people to take precautions such as securing their drugs to prevent it.
In his drug investigations through the years, Auten said he has learned that drug problems can happen to anyone. “Any family is subject to going through this nightmare of having someone end up on drugs.”
For more information on the Social Services subcommittee on teen prescription drug abuse, call Auten at 704-216-8671.
Contact Kathy Chaffin at 704-797-7683.

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