CENTENNIAL, Colo. (CBS4) – J.P. Carroll of Highlands Ranch was 26 when he passed away in his sleep from a deadly prescription drug mixture in 2012.

“We found out he had taken one pill, one hydrocodone pill,” Carroll’s sister, Kristina Searls, said. “(It) interacted with his anti-anxiety medication. They’re both central nervous system depressants, so it caused him to stop breathing in the middle of the night.”

The hydrocodone had been in his grandparents’ medicine cabinet.

Carroll’s death puts a face on a growing problem — one that health officials, law enforcement and community groups in Arapahoe County are combatting. They’re working to educate doctors, pharmacists and the public about the exploding problem.

Colorado has the second-highest rate of prescription drug abuse in the nation. More people die from drug overdoses than car crashes every year.

(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

The statistics are alarming. In the last 10 years, there has been an 86 percent increase in drug-related deaths in Arapahoe County. Nationally, someone dies every 19 minutes from an accidental overdose of prescription drugs.

A task force, which includes medical professionals and community groups, will raise awareness about this issue by stepping up enforcement, as well as working to educate doctors, pharmacists and the public about the dangers of prescription drug abuse.

“It’s very important for people to understand drug interactions … if you’re a patient who takes multiple drugs, understanding how they all work together and working with your physician to know that,” Dr. Jandel Allen-Davis said. “Where it becomes complicated is when drugs are what we call diverted; when somebody for whom the drug wasn’t prescribed chooses to take it and may be on meds themselves or may not be, and takes a combination of meds that becomes deadly.”

Allen-Davis says it’s often misunderstood how little can cause a deadly reaction, especially when combined with another type of medication.

Experts are seeing a tremendous increase in women abusing prescription drugs, with women 26 to 35 among the highest group dying of overdoses. Law enforcement says the biggest burglary crime in Aurora alone is for prescription drugs.

“Every time my day is busy it means families who are suf

J.P. Carroll (courtesy to CBS)

J.P. Carroll (courtesy to CBS)

fering because of it,” Dr. Kelly Lear-Kaul, Arapahoe County’s coroner, said.

Searls says her brother’s death should make families think about what’s in their homes.

“The people who have medications in their medicine cabinet — I was one of them, my parents were them. They just don’t know and think about it,” she said. “It can be your family. It can be your friend.”

 

This Saturday is National Prescription Drug Take Back Day. Coloradans are encouraged to safely dispose of unused prescription drugs in drop-off boxes. Find a location at deadiversion.usdoj.gov/drug_disposal/takeback/index.html.

Additional Information From The Denver Police Department

Denver Police drop off locations:

– District 1 1311 West 46th Avenue
– District 2 3921 Holly Street
– District 3 1625 South University Street
– District 4 2100 South Clay Street
– District 5 4685 Peoria Street
– District 6 1566 Washington Street
– Headquarters 1331 Cherokee Street

Note that these sites cannot accept needles, mercury thermometers, oxygen containers, chemotherapy or illicit drugs, radioactive substances, or pressurized containers.

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