Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

Attorney General McKenna spoke with the Peninsula Daily News yesterday about the problem of prescription drugs:

McKenna is leading the fight against prescription drug abuse at the state level, and the recently elected vice president of the National Association of Attorneys General wants to broaden the campaign.

"We're making prescription drug abuse a central priority of the national association," McKenna said.

"The rise of prescription drug abuse in Clallam County tracks what we're seeing statewide and nationally . . . It is astounding how fast the number of deaths has gone up in the last five years, so we're very focused on it."

He also covered some of the reasons that so many people are dying from prescription drug abuse:

Today's drugs are more powerful. OxyContin is up to 40 times stronger than morphine. Fentanyl, which was developed as a hospice drug for end-stage cancer patients, is 80 times more powerful than morphine, McKenna said.

 People are using the drugs inappropriately. "If you take a time-release medicine like an OxyContin pill, and you grind it up and you snort it, smoke it or swallow it, you bypass the time release protection and the entire blast is delivered to your central nervous system at one time," McKenna said.

The combination of different drugs, including alcohol, is deadly. "I often use the high-profile examples of people like Heath Ledger, the Hollywood star who died with five different prescription drugs in his blood -- two narcotics, two sedatives and a sleep aid," McKenna said.

"It was probably the OxyContin and the Xanax -- Xanax being a powerful barbiturate -- that slowed his breathing down until his heart stopped. So people are dying because they're mixing these drugs," he said.

Read the full story here.