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Teen prescription drug abuse rising in Orange County

May 9, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
Aaron Rubin and his mother Sherrie try to reach others through his tragedy. In 2005 when he was eight months clean, Rubin took OxyContin bought in Mexico. He was found unconscious the next day at a friend's house.

"When we saw the attending physician, they said, 'Sorry, you're going to lose your son today," Sherri Rubin said. "For myself as a mother, that was the worst day of my life."

Nearly a month in a coma after suffering two strokes, Rubin, now 29 years old, needs around the clock care. He's in a wheelchair and uses his fingers to communicate.

Rubin's story is much like the ones seen in "Behind the Orange Curtain," a documentary that looks at prescription drug abuse in Orange County's most affluent communities

The film, which premiered at the Newport Beach Film Festival, was created after executive producer Natalie Costa took her daughter to her first funeral. Mark Melkonian, a Dana Hills High School athlete, died from a prescription drug overdose at age 17.

"That's what the problem is, they don't expect the consequences," Costa said. "They don't think it's going to happen to them."

Authorities call it an epidemic. They say nearly 1 in 10 high school seniors admit to taking Vicodin for non-medical purposes. Prescription drug overdoses in the U.S. now outnumber traffic fatalities. Experts say once hooked, users often move to drugs like heroin, which is cheaper than OxyContin for the same high.

"We do encounter a lot of people who come from Newport Beach, Mission Viejo, from the South County area, that we'll see down here buying drugs," said Cpl. Manny Moreno of the Santa Ana Police Department.

Santa Ana police don't know why they're drawn to their city, but they see the dangers that come with drug use. During a recent traffic stop, police arrested a 36-year-old parolee on suspicion of possessing meth and heroin found next to his 6-year-old daughter in the front seat.

"It doesn't matter if you live on Park Avenue or the park bench, this is an epidemic across the country," Costa said.

Vernon Porter lost his 22-year-old daughter Vanessa nearly two years ago. A friend gave her the painkiller Opana. Porter said no one called 911 for his daughter because they feared the consequences.

"They let her lay there," he said. "She passed at about 4 in the morning. There was no phone call made until about 1 o'clock the next afternoon."

Porter is now pushing for a Good Samaritan law to make it easier for someone overdosing to get help without others fearing arrest or prosecution.

Experts said parents also need to be more aware of the drug problem and educating children early on about the dangers of drug use is vital.

"The children who have died have come from good families, good homes," Costa said. "The sweet spot for addiction is between the ages of 12 and 15, so you have to talk with our children before that age."


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