Police say it's a bigger drug problem than cocaine or meth: prescription drug abuse.
The N.C. Child Fatality Task Force just released a report this month, saying, nationally, we're almost at the point where more young people are dying from prescription drug abuse than motor vehicle crashes. And, according to the N.C. Division of Public Health, more than 900 North Carolinians died from prescription drug overdoses in the most recent reporting year, 2011.
State Sen. Malcolm Graham works at Johnson C. Smith University, so he's constantly among young people. He feels the state doesn't talk about prescription drug abuse enough.
"It's one of those things that I want my office staff to begin to give me more information -- the laws that are currently on the books -- and talk to some study groups in reference to what we should be doing,” he said.
But, in some ways, the state is doing a lot already. Eyewitness News talked to a prosecutor who said the state punishes prescription drug abuse every bit as hard as other drug abuse; in some cases, even harder. For example, trafficking painkillers can land you at least five-plus years behind bars, whereas, in some cases, trafficking cocaine may be only half that.
N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper said the SBI has almost a dozen agents assigned to these cases (not to mention all of the local law enforcement officers), that his office is pushing pharmacies to track patients better, and his office has programs to help parents realize prescription drugs can be as deadly as illegal ones.
"We know parents -- 81 percent of them are discussing the dangers of alcohol and marijuana and illegal drugs, but only 23 percent...the dangers of prescription drugs,” he said.