GBI: Prescription drugs menace lives in Georgia

Photo by Casey Dixon

Photo by Casey Dixon

ALBANY, Ga. -- The cost of drug abuse has gone up, according to a Georgia Bureau of Investigation report issued Thursday.

The 152-county analysis of the GBI Medical Examiner's drug-overdose autopsies showed there was a 10 percent increase in the number of deaths by prescription medications in 2010 compared to 2009.

The statistics for 2010 show that of 729 drug overdose deaths in Georgia, there were 560 involving only prescription drugs, according to GBI spokesman John Bankhead. Deaths by illicit drugs other than prescription drugs numbered 101. Illicit drugs and prescription drugs killed 68 people.

In 2009, there were 670 overdose deaths, the GBI report stated. Of those deaths, 508 were due to prescription drugs alone. Going back one more year to 2008, there were 496 overdose deaths from prescription drugs only.

That doesn't surprise the leader of the Albany-Dougherty Drug Unit. Maj. Bill Berry calls the proliferation of illegal prescription drugs "huge in magnitude."

"Whenever we pick someone up, whether it is for cocaine, marijuana or meth, they usually have about 100 pills on them," Berry said. "Within the last 10 days, we arrested three men with at least 100 pills on them."

Berry said the pills are usually Xanax, an anxiety drug, Oxycodone, a narcotic pain-relief medication, or Hydrocodone, another narcotic pain medication.

The majority of drug overdose deaths from any drug in 2010 -- 646 -- were accidental, according to the report. There were 68 suicides and 15 undetermined deaths.

No statisical information was available specifically for Dougherty or Lee counties.