Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

New Foundation Targets Prescription Drug Abuse

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

New Foundation Targets Prescription Drug Abuse

Article excerpt

PARK: Daughter's death inspires mother to warn public about drugs' effects

SARASOTA -- Linda Ballou lost her only daughter to the prescription drug oxycodone. Out of the pain of Debra Lynn Muller's death a year ago, Ballou has started a crusade against prescription drug abuse.

"It's an epidemic and growing by the minute," said Ballou, president of The Prescription Addiction Really Kills Foundation Inc., or PARK.

The new foundation already has garnered the support of Sarasota County Sheriff Tom Knight, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, District 12 Chief Medical Examiner Russell Vega, Goodwill CEO Don Roberts, several physicians and the University of Miami.

If Ballou has her way, PARK will become a national organization with major impact. She already has filmed her own documentary that is available free to help educate the public about dangerous painkillers and prescription drugs. The foundation directs its efforts toward teenagers, babies born to addicted mothers, seniors, the handicapped and military personnel.

The teenagers' brochure warns of the danger of "pharm or skittle" parties where teenagers mix prescription drugs in a bowl and randomly pop pills.

"They play Russian roulette with their lives to get high," Ballou said. "Among adolescents, prescription and over-the-counter medications account for most of the commonly abused legal drugs."

In just four months, Ballou has talked to 400 families who have been affected by prescription drug abuse. She has made almost 50 presentations, gotten endorsements, prepared brochures and signed up outreach volunteers. The foundation's website, www.parkills.com, is continually updated for a spectrum of ages.

Ballous worries that some physicians overprescribe Oxycodone, which can quickly lead patients to dependence, addiction and even crime in order to get more pills. So-called "pill mills" can take advantage of desperate people.

Sheriff Knight, who has been battling pill mills, supports Ballou's efforts "to create programs to educate the public on the devastating effects of these drugs."

Infants born to substance-exposed mothers are at risk for mental, physical and psychological problems. …

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