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'Oxy Watchdog' Founder Erin Marie Daly Visits KCAL9

STUDIO CITY (CBS) — Erin Marie Daly, the founder of Oxy Watchdog, visited KCAL9 Thursday to share how her brother's tragic death pushed her into activism.

OxyContin became a subject of interest to Erin in the course of her day job, but her fascination with it took a personal turn when her youngest brother, Pat, became addicted to the painkiller.

He died of a heroin overdose in February 2009.

She is currently working on a book about her brother's addiction and death, and the Oxy-to-heroin phenomenon in general. This blog relates to her research for that book.

Prescription drugs are now the fastest-growing drug problem in the United States. Drug overdose deaths now kill more people than car accidents nationwide, a trend that is being fueled by the uptick in pill addiction and overdoses.

Many times, abuse of prescription painkillers leads addicts to turn to heroin. It's widely available, provides the same high, and is much cheaper. A single OxyContin pill – one of the most popular opiate painkillers – can cost up to $80, while a bag of heroin goes in many areas of the country for as little as $5.

The new face of opiate addiction isn't what you'd expect. Young kids are getting started on prescription painkillers, thinking they are "clean" and "safe" because they are prescribed by doctors. But soon they find themselves addicted to opiates. These are kids from loving homes, middle-class, suburban communities. They have caring parents and go to good schools. They never thought they would end up as heroin addicts, but pills took them down that path.

There have been changes recently that have shifted the prescription drug addiction epidemic. OxyContin's maker reformulated the pill to make it supposedly harder to abuse. This isn't necessarily the case, as there are already whole listservs and online conversations devoted to how to abuse the new version. The old Oxy is still available on the black market, where pills are sold alongside hardcore street drugs like meth and heroin. In some cases kids are turning to other prescription painkillers like Opana, which is responsible for a growing number of deaths in southern California. And in many cases kids are turning to heroin.

The lesson to be learned is to educate yourself on the dangers of prescription drugs. They are not always safe as prescribed, and just because they are manufactured by scientists and made in a factory, they are not innocuous. The blog Oxy Watchdog keeps tabs on the prescription painkiller epidemic and contains personal stories as well as a list of resources for families, friends and addicts.

For more information, visit Oxy Watchdog.

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