Prescription Drug Abuse Is Nation's Top Drug-Related Problem - ABC FOX MONTANA NEWS, WEATHER, SPORTS - KTMF/KWYB

Prescription Drug Abuse Is Nation's Top Drug-Related Problem

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MISSOULA -

Prescription drug abuse contributes to more than 300 deaths in Montana each year. With those numbers from the Montana Department of Justice, Missoula police are trying harder than ever to stop what is being called the "Silent Epidemic."

"It has no boundaries it has no gender bias. It's every age, male, female black, white, hispanic, it doesn't matter," said Sgt. Dean Chrestenson with the Missoula Police Department.

Missoula police say prescription pills are the nation's biggest drug related problem right now, resulting in more deaths than any other drug combined.

"There's a high potential for addiction with these drugs, and I think that's one of the leading factors that leads to them being abused," Chrestenson said.

As prescription drug abuse started becoming an issue in Missoula, Detective Chrestenson was hired as the police department's first full-time drug diversion detective, working specifically on cases dealing with pills.

"My work load has not gotten easier in that time frame, it's gotten harder," Chrestenson said.

"It's definitely more and more prescription drugs," said former meth user Terri Griffith.

Griffith is now almost twelve years clean. Today she works at a recovery house in Missoula to help other drug addicts get sober. While she doesn't have personal experience with prescription pills, she definitely sees more and more people abusing them.

"I think what's happening, is prescription drugs are just so accessible and easy to get a hold of, because they're legal," Griffith said.

She said it's easy to get consumed by your drug of choice.

"It was a love affair it was it did everything else for me that everything else did and things got quickly out of control," Griffith said.

Chrestenson says because of this type of addiction, he's been working harder than ever since he became a divergent detective. He covers everything from cases involving people stealing drugs from medicine cabinets, to robbing pharmacies at gunpoint.

"It's a drug that's no longer just an option it's a choice for people, because it's a strong medication, it's a prescribed medication, so I think more people go to it because its a more dependable drug," Chrestenson said.

The Missoula Police Department's efforts include participating in drug take backs and educating the public on how dangerous prescription drugs can be by speaking at events around town.

"It's about making sure your medicine cabinets are secure, making sure they're not available," Chrestenson said.

Griffith said she knows from personal experience that no matter how good a drug makes you feel it's not worth ruining, or potentially ending, your life for.

"They're made to have a specific affect and do a specific task, and if you over do that, you run internal damage risks and so many other things.

For more information on where you can get help, or for more statistics on prescription drug abuse, go to the Department of Justice website.

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