Pubdate: Fri, 20 Jul 2007
Source: Dallas Morning News (TX)
Copyright: 2007 The Dallas Morning News
Author: Karen Ayres, The Dallas Morning News
Bookmark: (Oxycontin/Oxycodone)


Allen Man's Death Tied To Trend Of Medication Abuse

ALLEN - When Jordan Hall didn't feel high enough, he found a way to 
get another pill. Xanax. Valium. Or OxyContin. He craved them all.

In the past few months, Jordan prowled emergency rooms in Allen, 
Plano and then McKinney, begging for prescriptions. He stole money 
out of his doting mother's bank account. And then on July 3, he met a 
dealer down the street from his house and paid $80 for OxyContin 
pills, a strong narcotic pain reliever. The next day, his mother, 
Susie, shook her son to wake him up so they could watch July Fourth 
fireworks together. His body lay stiff on the living room sofa, his 
head propped up like he was watching television. At age 20, he was dead.

Allen police are investigating the cause of Jordan's death, and the 
results of Jordan's autopsy won't be available for a few weeks. But 
his family believes that the craving controlling his life ultimately 
killed him. And his addiction was far from unusual.

Teenagers now abuse prescription medications more than any other drug 
except marijuana, according to recent research. Overall drug use is 
down nationwide, but prescription drug abuse is booming.

Also Online Partnership for a Drug-Free America survey results (.pdf) 
"It's the biggest change in the landscape of substance abuse that 
we've seen in 20 years," said Tom Hedrick, one of the founders of the 
Partnership for a Drug-Free America. "This is as big as what we saw 
with cocaine in the 1980s. It is just as scary as that."

Nearly one in five teenagers across the country reported abusing 
prescription medications to get high at some point in their 
lifetimes, according to a Partnership survey of 7,000 randomly 
selected teenagers released last year.

In Texas, an estimated 9 percent of teenagers and 14 percent of 18- 
to 25-year-olds abused prescription drugs within the past year, 
according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human 
Services. That amounts to about 528,000 young people.

Experts can only guess why it's happening: Some teenagers say 
prescription drugs are easy to get. Many believe medications 
manufactured by drug companies are less dangerous than the marijuana, 
heroin and cocaine they've been warned against for years.

Regardless, abusers have started sharing recipes for getting high on 
MySpace and other Internet sites, quickly spreading the problem to 
every town in America. "People are a little naive that we have this 
apple pie community and a lot of people with higher incomes," Ms. 
Hall said. "They think they're exempt from all of this. If one person 
learns the danger from seeing what happened to him ..."

'Almost a learned thing' Jordan was unsure of himself from the start.

His parents divorced when he was 4. The next year, doctors diagnosed 
attention deficit disorder and put him on Ritalin, a stimulant and 
the first of many drugs he would be prescribed throughout his life. 
"He has had pills thrown at him ever since I can remember," said Rick 
Hall, Jordan's father. "It's almost a learned thing."

School was always hard. Jordan read paragraphs but couldn't remember 
them a minute later. He would later be classified with a generalized 
learning disability.

At home, he constantly reminded his mother to lock the doors of their 
house. At age 7, he once asked his mom 41 times during a movie if his 
hamster was OK. He also asked his mother not to date.

"You're going to live for a long time, right, mom?" Jordan frequently 
asked. Jordan loved to hang out with Mr. Hall's two older sons. 
Basketball and video games were his passions. Ms. Hall wasn't rich, 
but her only child got the Nintendo and later the Xbox that he wanted.

"All he had to do was smile and say 'I love you,' and we did 
everything we could for him," Ms. Hall said.

Signs of trouble Ms. Hall first smelled marijuana in her garage when 
Jordan was a freshman at the Lowery Center in Allen. Then, her Xanax 
pills started to disappear when his friends slept over.

Xanax, a mild tranquilizer, is one of the most commonly abused 
prescription drugs in Collin County, according to Sabina Stern of the 
county's substance abuse coalition. Abuse often starts in the early 
teenage years. "Someone is saying to them, 'You'll like how this 
makes you feel,' " Ms. Stern said.

Ms. Hall, who works long hours as a legal secretary in downtown 
Dallas, banned Jordan's friends from their small one-story house and 
eavesdropped on his phone calls, but she knew her son was still using 
drugs when she wasn't around. Jordan and his friends largely stuck 
with marijuana, but they also started taking the street version of 
Xanax, called "four bars." "I would scream. I would talk nice. One 
day everything would be fine, and then he would do it again," Ms. Hall said.

Just before Jordan turned 16 on Oct. 25, 2002, Ms. Hall bought her 
son the black Mustang GT convertible he had always wanted. Two years 
later, high on Xanax, Jordan crashed the car into a tree. He wasn't 
injured, but the car was totaled.

He was charged with drug possession, driving while intoxicated and 
evading arrest, court records show. Depressed about losing his car, 
Jordan dropped out of school.

He spent most of the day watching television, particularly Nancy 
Grace and other crime shows. But he also got stoned with friends. "I 
had tried to run these kids off, and they wouldn't run off," Mr. Hall 
said. When his mom wouldn't give him money for drugs, he hit her. "I 
need this, Mom," he told her. Still, Jordan called his mom at work 
constantly and came home every night. Ms. Hall couldn't afford to 
take off from work to watch him all the time. His parents had tried 
getting him counseling. At that point, they didn't know what to do.

"You want to help them and you want to get them to rehabilitation, 
but your heart just breaks thinking you're doing something that is 
rough on them," Mr. Hall said.

The loophole In the fall of 2006, Jordan was sentenced to community 
service and probation for the car wreck. If he couldn't pass drug 
tests, he knew he was going to jail. That meant no more marijuana.

Jordan was already seeing counselors and doctors who had prescribed 
him pills to treat anxiety and depression. So, he knew they wouldn't 
count against him on drug tests. Ms. Hall assumed the doctors made 
the right prescriptions. But Jordan had started popping extra pills 
to settle his nerves. Xanax and Valium, popular brand-name 
tranquilizers, put him to sleep. Opiate-based painkillers such as 
OxyContin also sedated him. Combining the two can prove deadly.

Mr. Hedrick, the Partnership for a Drug-Free America founder, said 
young people often know more about prescription drugs than anyone 
else. "It's totally understood by all the kids that it's going on and 
it's OK, but there is a complete lack of awareness from the adult 
population," Mr. Hedrick said. "It's really astonishing."

In May, Jordan finally graduated from Allen High School after 
completing a self-paced program. He hoped to work in forensic 
science. At the time, he continued to pop pills. Without a car, he 
called taxis to take him to local hospitals so he could persuade 
doctors to prescribe the drugs he wanted.

The Halls would later bury their son in his cap and gown. 'Eating out 
of his hands' Doctors are used to seeing addicts in search of 
prescriptions. An estimated 6 percent of Texans abused prescription 
drugs in the past year. About half of them were younger than 26. 
Those numbers are about the same nationwide, according to federal data.

Some doctors recognized Jordan's drug dependence and refused to write 
prescriptions for him. But others gave him what he wanted. "I am 
amazed at how easy it was for him to get things that finally ended up 
killing him," Mr. Hall said. "He had medical personnel fooled and 
eating out of his hands."

Ms. Hall threatened to call his probation officer. "Would you let 
your own son go to jail?" Jordan asked.

After Jordan bought the OxyContin from a dealer on July 3, he finally 
agreed that he had a problem and needed to go to the Green Oaks 
rehabilitation program in McKinney. Ms. Hall said she had planned to 
take him there on July 5 - the day after he died.

In the meantime, Mr. Hall had had enough. He told Jordan not to come 
over to celebrate July Fourth.

"I had gotten to the point where I just wanted to do everything I 
could to help him straighten up," Mr. Hall said. "I honestly believe 
if I had gone to get him, he would still be alive. But what do you 
do? There's a good chance that maybe I would have been prolonging the 
inevitable. He was just out of control." 
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