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Published December 09, 2009, 03:57 PM

Fastest growing drug problem has become pain killers

(WDAY TV) - It is being called North Dakota’s fastest growing drug problem. Not meth or cocaine, but the pain killer medications in family bathroom cabinets. In Fargo today, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem hosted a prescription drug abuse summit.

By: Kevin Wallevand, WDAY

(WDAY TV) - It is being called North Dakota’s fastest growing drug problem. Not meth or cocaine, but the pain killer medications in family bathroom cabinets. In Fargo today, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem hosted a prescription drug abuse summit.

Doctors, nurses, and law enforcement came to hear the latest grim news. That rogue online pharmacies are killing our kids. Deaths from drug overdoses are up 178-percent across the country. Some of the biggest increases are coming from rural states like North Dakota.

“Most of North Dakota would be alarmed if they knew 15 percent admit they have used illegal prescriptions illegally recreationally improperly in North Dakota.”

The capacity crowd also heard from addiction counselors, pharmacists, and pain management physicians.

One of the more moving parts of the summit came when a Minnesota father talked about the son he lost to prescription drugs his 24-year old son bought on-line. Dan Pearson has been instrumental in testifying before state and federal lawmakers to get tighter restrictions on internet pharmacies.

Justin was a good kid a fun loving kid had a lot of friends, was just a wonderful kid. But it would be an ATV accident that would change Justin Pearson and his family forever. To treat ongoing pain following the crash, Justin got addicted to vicodin. And when they cut him off, he started buying the pain killer on line.

“Every parent's worst nightmare, it got to point where we called police.”

The family discovered the problem. His father got him help, an intervention, a California treatment facility, along with Hazelden. The best in the country, but Justin could not kick the addiction.

“I will never forget the day at Hazelden when a Fed Ex truck pulled up and the glazed look on his face wondering if there was a box of vicodin on there.”

Justin was going on line often to support his addiction. His father says he was using up to 80-vicodin in a 24 hour period.

It would be Christmas Day when Dan Pearson would lose his son Justin to the grip of vicodin.

“Like any parent I look back and wish I could have some do-overs. You are right, I go every morning get a cup of coffee and go to visit the cemetery and have a hard time grasping it.”

The so called Justin's Law in Minnesota and North Dakota targets online operations by requiring a face to face consultation with a medical professional.

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