LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - For 11 straight years, the number of drug overdose deaths continues to increase - with 38,000 drug-related deaths in the United States every year. That's more than the population of Lufkin overdosing on drugs.
More than half of those deaths are from prescription drugs.
It starts out with a few pills. Then as your body builds a tolerance more and more is necessary to get the same high. The Centers for Disease Control says this growing problem is the reason 60 percent of overdose deaths in 2010 were related to prescription drugs.
"Their body is building a tolerance and they don't realize it, and you can tolerate that medication, but the problem occurs when it becomes toxic in your body," Phyllis Grandgeorge, the executive director of the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Council, said.
Grandgeorge said prescription drug abuse in East Texas has dramatically increased since 2010.
"It's trending at number 3 and so that has grown from the past couple of years," Grandgeorge said. "It's not been in our top 3, so we see that because we believe it's more accessible."
Marijuana and cocaine abuse claim the number one and two spots locally.
Grandgeorge said people often don't think about what the drugs are doing to their bodies.
"Those receptor sites don't work as well as they used to because you're putting that chemical in there so you need more and more to get that feeling," Grandgeorge said. "It's much like methamphetamine or any other drug; you build that tolerance, so you need more all-the-while, your liver and kidneys can't process. You know all that, and that's why they overdose because it's just kind of stuck in their system."
Drugs like Oxycontin, Valium, Zanex and Hydrocodone are the types of prescriptions that Grandgeorge sees most abused in East Texas.
"We have clients who take anywhere from 50 to 70 pills a day, which are extreme cases of addicts who are in severe levels of addiction," Grandgeorge said.
Grandgeorge says that it's important for people who are trying to stop abusing prescription drugs to seek professional help because you cannot just abruptly stop taking them.