The Drug Report

Facts about what can go wrong when people use drugs

  • The Best Drug Info Ever?

    A big part of my inspiration for The Drug Report was Beth Pearce's amazing film, VOICE OF THE VICTIMS: TRUE STORIES OF ECSTASY AND KETAMINE. The film simply lets the victims of drug tragedies tell their stories. It's real life, it's undeniable, and it's incredibly powerful. I'm sure Beth has saved many, many lives, and it is my hope that this blog will do so as well. To learn more about her film, go to Voice Of The Victims.


    A friend of mine likes to say, "You're entitled to your own opinion, but not your own facts."

    When it comes to drugs, there are lots of opinions out there: Some think drugs are safe and fun, some think they're dangerous and frightening, and many think everything in between.

    But facts are facts, and when someone dies from drugs, or someone is murdered by a person who is on drugs, or is raped by someone who has given them drugs, that's just a fact. Drug users who actively promote drug use rail against these facts, and I expect they'll be commenting regularly on The Drug Report. But they can't change the facts.

Archive for the ‘Prescription drugs’ Category

Addicted Pharmacist’s Mistake Kills Man

Posted by Childress on October 21, 2006

Walgreen’s pharmacist James Wilmes had a bad habit. He routinely slipped OxyContin and hydrocodone from stock and popped it. He’d done it for years. In a word, he was an addict.

His addiction just caught up with him, the way addictions often do. The Chicago Sun Post picks up the story:

Walgreens must pay $31 million to the loved ones of a 79-year-old Schaumburg man who died after being given the wrong prescription from a drug-using pharmacist.

Leonard Kulisek slipped into a coma a day after taking the wrong medication and suffered through a series of illnesses over the next 22 months before he died.

Pharmacist James Wilmes admitted he’d been popping OxyContin and hydrocodone for eight years, stealing the pills from the Walgreens stock he managed, and jurors said they believe he was under the influence on the day he gave Kulisek the wrong medication. …

Kulisek was supposed to get a pill for gout, but Wilmes instead gave him an insulin pill that dropped his blood-sugar levels dramatically, putting him into a coma and causing him kidney troubles.

Kulisek filed his lawsuit while he was still alive.

“Walgreens tells you they’re the pharmacy America trusts,” said Kulisek’s attorney, David Axelrod. “But you really can’t trust them.”

Jurors said they believed Kulisek’s deteriorating health was caused by the wrong prescription and contributed to his death, saying Walgreens’ failure to catch Wilmes’ thefts and signs of addiction played a role in their verdict.

Wilmes admitted he stole 86,000 pills in his career.

Of course, drugs didn’t make Wilmes kill Kulisek. They just made it possible for him to do so, but altering his perception of reality.

Could a similar mistake have happened if Wilmes wasn’t an addict? Certainly. But he was an addict and that made his fatal mistake a $31 million one.

The paper goes on to report that Wilmes was fired by Walgreens, has gone through rehap and continues work as a pharmacist, under probation. That’s worrisome, like an alcoholic working as a bartender.


Posted in Charges & Trials, Crimes, Prescription drugs | Leave a Comment »

OxyContin, Xanax Leave Teen Ruined

Posted by Childress on October 21, 2006

Justin Palmer used to be just another 19 year-old.  Now he’s a very special one … but not in a good way:

On March 12, he left the house of his mother, Elayne Walters, in the Berkeley neighborhood to go to a party. On the way, he bought OxyContin, a strong pain reliever similar to morphine, and took the drug a few hours later with Xanax, an anti-anxiety medicine.

His friends found him in the morning.

The lack of oxygen ravaged his respiratory system. He spent a month in a coma. Friends and former teachers poured into the hospital.

Eventually, he opened his eyes. Sometimes they tracked his little brothers around the room. He made clucking noises.Walters asked the doctors what they called her son’s condition.They used phrases like persistent vegetative state.

Palmer is improving — slowly, with lots of pain and lots of work.

Palmer lists all the things he can now do. His right arm — once frozen against his chest — can raise a sandwich to his mouth. Or a drink. Even comb his hair and brush his teeth.And, look, he says, wiggling his left thumb. Four weeks ago, he could barely make it twitch.He’s relearning social skills, like not interrupting people when they’re speaking. He has developed the curious habit of asking women who pass by how old they are.

But he worries about his legs. On Wednesday, for the first time, he shared his fears with his mother.

“What if I never walk again?” he asked.

Walters told him, “God didn’t bring you this far to stop here.”

And he has a continuing fear, that another teenager will think that prescription drugs are safe and don’t pose the threat of street drugs. To them, a word of advice:

“Don’t do drugs,” Palmer says, slowly and clearly. He raises his right fingers and gestures at the body frozen in his wheelchair. “Look.”

Posted in Prescription drugs | Leave a Comment »

Why Drug Death Counts may be Under-Reported

Posted by Childress on October 13, 2006

In the story about Kai X, the young man killed by oxycontin profiled below, there was in interesting passage:

The drug problem in this area is not exaggerated. In fact, it is understated.

Drug deaths often do not make the news as drug deaths. In the newspapers, we read only that a young man or woman has been found dead and that foul play is not suspected.

By the time a toxicology report comes back four months later, the death is old news, especially if it does not involve a prominent person or a separate crime. Unless we know the family, we never make a positive link between the death and drugs.

But ask most young people working around town. They know the real score. Drugs are readily available, their friends are doing them, and they can rattle off the names of those who have died because of it.

If people knew the real death toll of drugs, do you think it would make a difference?  I would hope so.

Posted in Prescription drugs | 1 Comment »

Oxycontin Snuffs Out A Young Life

Posted by Childress on October 13, 2006

The story in the Sarasota (FL) Herald Tribune seems all too routine:

Kai Hoeckel was dead. He was found one morning last week, cold to the touch, lying on a futon at his father’s home in Grove City.

The toxicology report is not back yet, but there’s a good chance the prescription drug OxyContin killed him.  He was 23. 

Of course it’s not routine — anything but.  It’s the death of a real person who has people who loved him … who still love him … who will forever miss him.

There’s no bringing Kai Hoeckel back.   And there’s no foolproof manual telling us how to comfort his mother or make ourselves feel better or where to go from here.

Maybe his death will spur a flurry of action that will save someone else. That’s about the best we can hope for.

And, [his mom Carroll] Swayze sees a lesson in her personal tragedy.  “You have to see the good in every day,” she says. “Savor every moment. I don’t think people realize what they have.

A friend called from Virginia Beach the other night. ‘What do you want me to do?’ she asked. “I said, ‘Just go hug your son.'” 

Good advice … and talk to your kid, too.  Share this story with them.

Posted in Prescription drugs | 1 Comment »

Methadone Named in Celebrity Death

Posted by Childress on September 30, 2006

Daniel Smith, the son of glitter-gal Anna Nicole Smith, reportedly had methadone and two anti-depressants. AP reports:

Anna Nicole Smith’s 20-year-old son died from a lethal combination of methadone and two antidepressant drugs, a U.S.-based pathologist who conducted a private autopsy said Wednesday.

Toxicology tests showed Daniel Smith had methadone, Zoloft and Lexapro in his system when he died Sept. 10 in a hospital room in the Bahamas where his former Playboy playmate mother was recuperating from giving birth to a daughter, according to Cyril Wecht.

“The fact that we have these drugs and the levels of the drugs overwhelmingly and most logically point to this being a tragic, accidental, drug-related death,” Wecht told The Associated Press from his home in the Pittsburgh area.

Wecht said it was impossible to tell which of the drugs actually was responsible for Smith’s drug. He called the death “a ‘classical’ combination of the drugs which had a lethal ‘cumulative effect on the central nervous system.'”

“Coroners working around the country, we see this in people taking two or three drugs or more,” he said. The low levels of each drug suggest he did not die from an overdose, he added.

Posted in Methadone, Prescription drugs | Leave a Comment »

Club Drug Coma In Maryland

Posted by Childress on September 18, 2006

Here’s a story out of Maryland that’s a bit unusual:

A little over a week ago, 18-year-old Kimberly Davis was working two jobs and had aspirations of becoming a cosmetologist, but those dreams may never come true.

One night of drug use left her clinically dead for 10 minutes and unconscious for three days, according to her family.

“She could have brain damage for the rest of her life” Malorie Davis said of her sister who awoke from a coma earlier this week. “We don’t know what’s going to be wrong with her but we know she’s going to be alive and that’s all that matters.”

What happened to Kimberly is not unusual, unfortunately.  As any emergency room worker can tell you, 18 to 25 year olds with drug overdoses show up with depressing regularity.

What’s unusual is that Kimberly’s story was told in a newspaper.  If every coma and near-death experience suffered by a young person from drugs were told, there would be greater understanding of the risk, and fewer would show up in the emergency room.

Posted in Ecstasy, Ketamine, Prescription drugs | Leave a Comment »

The Aging Drug Death Demographic

Posted by Childress on September 9, 2006

Here’s a story that’s worth pondering:

The Arizona Department of Health Services said that over the past decade, the per capita rate for fatal, accidental poisoning by drugs and alcohol among Arizonans ages 45 to 64 has multiplied to 250 in 2005 from 39 in 1995.

Experts say baby boomers, now ages 42 to 60, are particularly susceptible to drug abuse in middle age and beyond.

“Drug addiction is so often talked about as a disease of our youth, but for so many people, it catches up with them when they age,” said Dr. Marvin Seppala, a national expert on drug abuse and chief medical director at Hazelden, a substance-abuse treatment program in Minnesota.

Seppala, a recovering drug addict, said he saw a dramatic change in the drug culture when the pain reliever OxyContin hit the market in 1995.

Here’s what this story tells us:  We have a demographic group that has been taking drugs steadily since they were young in the 1970s.  Every year, a few more die as their bodies get less able to protect themselves from the drugs.

Then oxycontin came out, and they started dropping like flies.

Posted in Prescription drugs | Leave a Comment »

Clinic Busted in Drug Death

Posted by Childress on September 9, 2006

Is someone who supplies drugs responsible  responsible for deaths caused by drugs?  If there ever was a case to make the cause, this is it, from the St. Petersburg (FL) Times:

Jason Fulford died in this bedroom eight months ago, a troubled young man who took too many pills.

His death has led the Sheriff’s office to make an arrest in an ongoing investigation into prescription drug abuse.

Sally Jane Medina, 45, was arrested on several charges related to improperly practicing medicine and trafficking in narcotics.  Authorities said she was working as a physicians assistant at the Doctors Urgent Care Clinic in January when she supplied Fulford with prescriptions for Xanax, Oxcodone and Percocet.

Fulford, 33, died as a result of taking the drugs he obtained with those prescriptions, the Sheriff’s office said.  Medina admitted to seeing Fulford and writing the prescription, according to an arrest affidavit. …

“They gave him enough pills to kill a healthy person,” said Fred C. Fulford, 35, Jason’s brother.  “My brother didn’t have to show proof of anything.  He had no X-rays, no note from a doctor. He had nothing.”

Prescription drugs require prescriptions for a reason — they are dangerous and require the monitoring of a medical professional.  And medical professionals who become drug dealers deserve jail time … lots of jail time.

Posted in Charges & Trials, Prescription drugs | Leave a Comment »

Gay Drug Party Ends in Death

Posted by Childress on September 4, 2006

The following article from the Glascow Evening Times blames David Steel’s death on Ecstasy, but it’s clear that there was much more at work within his body when he died.

A GLASGOW addiction psychiatrist has been accused of hosting a drug and drink fuelled gay party during which a man died.

Dr Clint Tatchell, 37, allegedly wrote a prescription for the tranquilliser Diazepam then misled police by tidying up his flat after David Steel, a former Mr Gay Glasgow, was found dead in his bed.

A General Medical Council fitness-to-practise hearing in London was told Mr Steel’s body was discovered at Dr Tatchell’s flat in Glasgow on September 21, 2003. Mr. Steel, 30, of the city’s Ingram Street, who died of an ecstasy overdose, had also taken heroin, cocaine and Diazepam in a binge that began two days before.

Dafydd Enoch, for the GMC, told the hearing: “The party was not just fuelled by drink, although there was vodka, beer, champagne and alcopops drunk. We say it was fuelled by drugs, certainly in Mr Steel’s case.

“Dr Tatchell orchestrated a thorough tidy up of the flat before police arrived following Mr Steel’s death. He had just found a dead body in his bed, he must have realised he should have touched nothing. What did he have to hide?”

The insane irony of this story is that Tatchell is an addiction psychiatrist.  He therefore knows professionally the effects of this much drug-taking.  If I were the prosecutor, I would go for whatever the English equivalent of first degree murder is, because the case can be made that he had knowledge and forethought.

Posted in Alcohol, Charges & Trials, Cocaine, Ecstasy, Prescription drugs | 6 Comments »

Fentanyl Deaths Fault of U.S.?

Posted by Childress on September 4, 2006

I’m not going to post a comment by Pat Rodgers, who blames last summer’s heroin/fentanyl deaths on the U.S. government.  His/her point:  American successful interdiction of Asian heroin caused addicts no choice but Mexican heroin, which led to Fentanyl spiking in an effort to yield similar effects as Asian heroin.

My take is different, of course.  However, it’s not the purpose of this blog to debate drug policy.  I’m not taking any comments on this post; I’m just putting Rodgers’ comment out there for your consideration.

Posted in Heroin, Prescription drugs | 1 Comment »

Another Heroin-Fentanyl Murder Charge

Posted by Childress on September 1, 2006

Another man has been charged with homicide following the recent wave of 100 or more overdose deaths from heroin laced with the painkiller Fentanyl.

The charges were filed in Chicago, where authorities charged 35-year-old Corey Crump Thursday with homicide in the death of a police chief’s son who died after taking Fentanyl-spiked heroin.

The homicide charge was the first to stem from an investigation into numerous deaths attributed in part to the drug. Another man has been charged with homicide for a death caused by Fentanyl-spiked methadone.

A conviction could land Crump in prison for up to 30 years.

Posted in Charges & Trials, Heroin, Methadone, Prescription drugs | 1 Comment »

U.S. Pain-Killer Deaths Soaring

Posted by Childress on August 22, 2006

Consider this news in the context of pharm parties, when kids mix various prescription drugs in a bowl, grab a bunch, and wash them down with liquor.  It is from new research conducted at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, and was recently is published in the journal, Pharmacoepidemiology and Drug Safety.

Trends analysis of drug poisoning deaths has helped explain a national epidemic of overdose deaths in the U.S. that began in the 1990s and points to the contribution of prescription pain killers to the epidemic.

Drugs called “opioids” are frequently prescribed to relieve pain, but if abused they can kill. Over the past 15 years, sales of opioid pain killers, including oxycodone, hydrocodone, methadone and fentanyl, have increased, and deaths from these drugs have increased in parallel.

In 2002, over 16,000 people died in the U.S. as a result of drug overdoses, with most deaths related to opioids, heroin, and cocaine. Opioids surpassed both cocaine and heroin in extent of involvement in these drug overdoses between 1999 and 2002.

The situation appears to be accelerating. Between 1979 and 1990 the rate of deaths attributed to unintentional drug poisoning increased by an average of 5.3% each year. Between 1990 and 2002, the rate increased by 18.1% per year. The contribution played by opioids is also increasing. Between 1999 and 2002 the number of overdose death certificates that mention poisoning by opioid pain killers went up by 91.2%. While the pain killer category showed the greatest increase, death certificates pointing a finger of blame at heroin and cocaine also increased by 12.4% and 22.8% respectively.

Posted in Prescription drugs | Leave a Comment »

Guilty Plea in Fentanyl-Methadone Deaths

Posted by Childress on August 22, 2006

Earlier this summer, hundreds died in the Midwest from a lethal mixture of the pain-killer fentanyl and either heroin or methadone.  Now that a guilty plea has solved three of the deaths, questions remain about the other 90+.

The following information was released by the U.S. Department of Justice:

United States Attorney Margaret M. Chiara announced the guilty plea of Robert Lee King to a federal charge of distribution of fentanyl causing death. Mr. King, age 40, of Charlevoix and Cheboygan Counties, Michigan, was facing three separate charges in a trial set to begin on August 21, 2006 in the Federal District Court in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

The first charge alleged the distribution on January 8, 2005 of methadone and fentanyl, Schedule II controlled substances, resulting in the serious bodily injury and death of Emily Waskiewicz in Charlevoix County from the use of the methadone and fentanyl ….

The second charge involved a distribution of fentanyl on October 1, 2005 resulting in the serious bodily injury and death of Garry Sneller in Cheboygan County from the use of the fentanyl which King had originally obtained from a pharmacy in Boyne City, Michigan.

Fentanyl is a highly potent pain medication which typically is administered through patches worn on the skin.

The third charge alleged a conspiracy to distribute OxyContin in Charlevoix County and elsewhere from 1999-2004. A fourth charge was previously dismissed by the court. …

The charge of distribution of a controlled substance causing death carries a penalty of not less than 20 years and up to life imprisonment and a fine of up to $1 million.

Posted in Charges & Trials, Heroin, Methadone, Prescription drugs | 1 Comment »

Survey Finds Parents Clueless on Kids’ Drugs

Posted by Childress on August 19, 2006

A recent survey by – finds that parents’ perception of parties their teens go to vary a great deal from what the teens reports goes on at their get-togethers. From the Chicago (IL) Tribune:

[A] survey released Thursday by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University… [finds]: One-third of teens and nearly half of 17-year-olds attend house parties where alcohol, marijuana and illegal drugs are plentiful–even when parents are actually in the home. The survey also found:

– Eighty percent of parents believe that neither alcohol nor marijuana is usually available at teen gatherings, but 50 percent of their kids say they attend parties where alcohol, drugs or both are available.

– Ninety-eight percent of parents say they are normally present during parties in their homes, while a third of teens report that parents are rarely around.

– Only 12 percent of parents see illegal substances as their teen’s greatest concern. But twice as many teens (27 percent) say drugs are a major worry.

– Thirty-eight percent of teens say they can buy marijuana within a day; 19 percent can complete the transaction in an hour or less.

Commenting on the survey, Joseph A. Califano, secretary of health, education and welfare during the Carter administration, said:

Where are [the parents]? Why aren’t they walking in and out of the party? Don’t they smell the pot or the booze? There’s just a tremendous disconnect.”

“Parents are living in a fool’s paradise. They’ve got to take the blinders off and pay attention. If asbestos were in the ceiling, they’d raise hell. But their schools are riddled with drugs. If they’d say, `Get the drugs out’ with the same energy, we’d get somewhere. This is a wake-up call.”

Parents need to pay attention and not expect schools to handle this for them. THEY need to talk to their kids about drugs. The best tool I know of to accomplish this is the Voice of the Victims films. The parent edition gives parents the information they need to know, and the motivation and will to talk to their kids.

The teen/young adult edition tells the stories of four drug tragedies in the reality-TV format kids appreciate: No narrators, no endless statistics, no phony scare tactics: Just the friends and families of the victims, telling their stories through tears.

Here’s a direct link to the order page. My friend Beth Pearce, the producer, has it on sale now (both films, more than two hours of good stuff, for $25 and she’ll pay the U.S. shipping — this is a mission for her, not a business), so do buy the set and MORE IMPORTANT, do talk to your kids.

Posted in Alcohol, Cocaine, Ecstasy, Marijuana, Prescription drugs | Leave a Comment »

So Whacked Out, He Killed Her

Posted by Childress on August 13, 2006

Cliffton J. Brownlee, 25, who prosecutors called “a walking time bomb” because of his drug use, was sentenced last week to 25 years in prison followed by 20 years of extended supervision for the brutal stabbing murder of his wife in 2005.

At his sentencing, Brownlee told the court, “”The incident wouldn’t have taken place if I had not done drugs … it isn’t easy to stop (using drugs) when you’ve started.”

The incident was one of the most bruttal investigators in Woodman Iowa had ever seen, according to the Dubuqu IA Telegraph Herald, but for some reason, Judge George Curry cut Brownlee some slack:

Despite calling the killing “a very vicious, homicidal attack” and saying the “brutality of the act is indescribable,” Curry ignored prosecution and pre-sentencing recommendations for a stiffer sentence. Pre-sentencing recommended 40 years in prison plus 20 years of extended supervision; Grant County District Attorney Lisa Riniker sought 30 years confinement and 20 years of extended supervision.

Why did Brownlee stab his wife 20 times?

“There was no reason to stab somebody 20 times,” Curry said, noting Brownlee was high on drugs at the time of the killing. “You had an opportunity to stop. All you had to do was call 911. Instead you finished her off.”

According to testimony, both Brownlee and [his wife] Brownlee-Reynolds were frequent drug users. Blood and urine samples taken from Brownlee the day of the crime included amounts of THC, amphetamine and methamphetamine.

Brownlee-Reynolds had amounts of ecstasy, THC, and OxyContin – a pain reliever – in her system at the time of her death.

“They got themselves so whacked out, they couldn’t comprehend what they were up to,” Day said, adding the OxyContin made Brownlee-Reynolds “impervious to pain.”

I’m speechless.  What a sad, sad story.

Posted in Charges & Trials, Ecstasy, Marijuana, Meth, Prescription drugs | Leave a Comment »