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When Teachers Become Sexual Predators
Aired April 26, 2011 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DR. DREW PINSKY, HOST: Yet another teacher accused of having sex with a student. It`s a dangerous line that can never be crossed.
And prescription drug abuse, it is the problem of our time. President Obama just made the issue a priority, and you should, too.
And I`m on call tonight, answering your questions about anything.
So let`s get started.
All right. I want to pick up today where we left off yesterday.
Those of you that did not see the show yesterday, we did a piece about gambling addiction and about eating issues. And when the day was done, we kind of got back to the point where many of the subjects in the studio here and I, myself, was emphasizing that the very emptiness that people are feeling that lead to the need to numb through gambling and the need to stuff with food, the kind of disregulation of emotions that is so common that leads to the aggression that I`m always screaming about on this show, these things, at their core, maybe can be solved with one simple bit of advice. And that is to start being of service to other people and to tolerate closeness of others.
We came to the point where we said intimacy, closeness of other people perhaps -- just contemplate this -- perhaps could fill that void, perhaps could be part of the solution to so many of the problems we`re seeing.
Now, we`re going to address a topic here in a couple of seconds about the violation of a relationship that`s built on a circumstance where one person has power and one person does not, a teacher an student, like a doctor and a patient. And these are situations where the closeness, when it is violated, when it is exploited, is tremendously damaging to the person for whom the person is in authority is responsible.
A certain kind of person does that. And a certain kind of person tends to lend themselves to be a victim. And when they are victimized, even though we look at it and go, oh, maybe he`s not really a victim, that 16-year-old male is just one lucky guy, no, not so lucky.
The outcomes are bad. Their relationships are permanently altered, and their ability to tolerate that closeness I`m referring to, I`m trying to open with here today, that idea of tolerating closeness with another person, becomes permanently impaired. Think about this. I`ll revisit this a lot going forward.
For now, take a look at this mug shot.
This man`s name is Terry Lamar Jones. He`s a former high school band leader and now alleged sexual predator. He`s accused of having an affair with a former student, and here now is the story.
PINSKY (voice-over): Terry Lamar Jones, the high school music teacher now at the center of a sex scandal. One of his former students published an essay in her college newspaper about her alleged months-long affair with Jones. She accuses him of more than just sex. She claims he got her pregnant, facilitated an abortion, and had an intimate relationship with another student.
Illicit teacher/student unions aren`t new. Remember Mary Kay Letourneau and Carrie McCandless? What about Debra Lafave? The list goes on, and so does the trauma to young people.
Why? What turns a teacher into a predator?
PINSKY: And check this out. "Seven percent of students report being sexually abused. That`s with direct physical contact by an adult working in a school. Primarily, teachers and coaches. If you add in verbal and visual sexual misconduct, the number rises to 10 percent or approximately 4.5 million students.
Joining me now to discuss this issue are David Freedman. He is the attorney for Terry Lamar Jones. We also have Owen Lafave. His former wife, Debra, had a sexual relationship with a teen student. And psychotherapist here with me in the studio, Stacy Kaiser. She has worked in schools, treated teens and perpetrators.
As well, on the phone -- it`s a packed panel we`ve got here -- on the phone is Charol Shakeshaft. She authored a study called "Educator Sexual Misconduct."
And first we are going to Mr. Freedman.
In fact, Mr. Freedman, did this happen? And what is it that your client is facing right now?
DAVID FREEDMAN, ATTORNEY FOR TERRY LAMAR JONES: Well, right now this is just -- he`s just been charged this week. He`s got -- as you know, charges are just that, just allegations. People are presumed to be innocent, and people, unfortunately, especially in cases involving teachers alleged to have had sexual relations with students, people, a number of times, rush to judgment and make conclusions. And I always ask people to sort of let the process play out.
Last fall there was a teacher in Forsyth (ph) County who was accused of sex offense until the student came forth and admitted they made it all up. So I think the people around here are very cautious about jumping to conclusions.
PINSKY: Let me ask this. We have a Facebook question. This is somebody named Diana V. And she asks, "Why do male teachers seem to receive harsher sentences for having sex with students than female teachers who commit the same crime?"
And I think behind that question is, do we judge male and female teachers differently with these allegations, Mr. Freedman?
FREEDMAN: I think in general, males are treated harsher in the criminal justice system than females are. I still think there`s a certain paternalistic feeling by the court system that females have been misled or led astray or other people are more responsible. So I don`t know that it`s just limited to what teachers are accused of it. I think it may be prevalent everywhere.
PINSKY: And Charol, you`ve collected the data on this topic. Tell us, what does the landscape look like? How often does this happen? What are the outcomes? Who are the perpetrators? Give us sort of a snapshot.
CHAROL SHAKESHAFT, PROF., VIRGINIA COMMONWEALTH UNIVERSITY: Well, it happens all the time, every kind of school district, all kinds of kids -- wealthy kids, not so wealthy kids, white kids, black kids, Latino, Latina kids. It happens with female teachers, male teachers, coaches, guidance counselors.
PINSKY: Do the people that are the perpetrators fit any kind of particular profile? Are they, themselves, trauma survivors, say, typically?
SHAKESHAFT: Some are, some aren`t. There`s no real relationship between those two.
It is the case that many people who sexually abuse were sexually abused, themselves, but it`s also the case that the majority of people who are sexually abused do not go on to be sexual abusers. So I think that`s important to understand.
There`s really kind of two profiles, and they`re both complicated. One is what I call fixated abusers, someone who`s total sexual pleasure comes from children. And the second, which is probably the cases you`re talking about, although I can`t speak directly to them, is what we would call an opportunistic abuser, someone who takes advantage of situations that come to them but aren`t focused particularly on sex with a particular age group of child.
PINSKY: Stacy, do you see a difference in how males and females approach this problem? In other words, she`s saying that there`s different categories of the perpetrators. Do male and female teachers approach the problem -- or the perpetration differently?
STACY KAISER, PSYCHOTHERAPIST: You know, that has been my experience. What I found is that men, very much like in real life, see it more as an activity. It`s someone to have some fun with, have sex with. And for women it`s more of an emotional bond. They`re looking to have a need filled in these younger boys that they`re not getting filled in their life.
PINSKY: And I think the average person at home looks at that and goes, huh, what? And then they marry the 15-year-old, or whatever? How is that possible? What`s going on in the teacher`s head?
KAISER: Yes. And that`s really that emotional connection. You can look at --
PINSKY: But it`s a distorted emotional connection. It`s a completely -- it`s a misappropriation of what should be an intimate connection.
KAISER: Absolutely. It`s not the intimate connection like you were talking about earlier in the show that those of us who are high functioning are looking for.
It`s a misguided belief. It`s a need being filled in a wrong way, but they convince themselves, and they try and convince us, and they definitely convince their victims that there is a real intimate and close relationship there.
PINSKY: Owen Lafave, does this sound familiar to you?
OWEN LAFAVE, FMR. WIFE HAD SEX WITH TEEN STUDENT: It hits home. And, you know, very true, I think, in my wife`s case, who did have some emotional trauma.
Her sister was killed by a drunk driver while she was pregnant, so very traumatic. And she had issues with depression, anorexia in her childhood that, you know, possibly could have been a risen. Not saying that it was or it was an excuse, but definitely someone who had some emotional issues in her past that maybe had caused her to act out like she did.
PINSKY: So I think, Stacy, what we`re saying is that the -- we`ll talk about the victims maybe after we get back from the break, because they, too, probably have certain profiles or liabilities. But it`s not the average teacher that`s going to do this. They have liabilities.
KAISER: Absolutely. And if you look into their past, you will see other things that are patterns of behaviors. It might be abuse, it might be low self-esteem.
PINSKY: David, thank you. I appreciate your thoughts. And good luck with this case.
When we come back, we have a teen who had an affair with a teacher. It`s a cautionary tale for sure.
And later, a big problem with prescription medications. My favorite topic and the problem of our time.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DEBRA LAFAVE, HAD AFFAIR WITH 14-YEAR-OLD STUDENT: My greatest regret would probably be the fact that I put this young man through this. I mean, the media has totally taken it out of proportion. And he`s suffering even more so by the media`s actions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PINSKY: We are talking about affairs between teachers and students. Remember, that`s no different than doctors and patients, bosses and employees, and so on. No good ever comes from these kinds of affairs. They are exploitative.
Big people take care of little people. That`s the basic foundation of a family unit. And when you violate those kinds of trust, you hurt people.
I also want to remind people that Owen Lafave is here. His wife we just saw, Debra, had an affair with a student. He`s the producer of an upcoming documentary called "After School," which looks into teacher/student sexual relations.
Also joining us via Skype is Joshua Ferrier. He, himself, had a sexual relationship with a teacher and actually became suicidal after it was made public. The teacher apparently pleaded no contest last month.
Joshua, thank you for joining us.
But first, I want to go to Owen.
I want to hear about this documentary, and I also want you to remind my listeners and viewers about Debra`s story. Just -- if you could give us, again, a snapshot of her story and then tell us about the documentary.
LAFAVE: And I guess I`ll start with Debra`s story, because that really was what led me to the documentary.
But, you know, my wife was a middle school teacher here in Tampa, Florida. And she had a sexual, of course, inappropriate, relationship with one of her students which was then thrust into the media spotlight. And, of course, we were married at the time and were newlyweds in less than a year, so very difficult, very traumatic for me.
And later on, I guess dealing with, you know, a lot of the emotional issues, I found, you know, a number of people that were motivated similar to me and started working on the documentary "After School," which is in post production and should be ready this fall or winter. And what we attempted to do was really take an in-depth look at just the frequency of occurrence that was happening with these types of stories to determine if it`s something that has happened all along, was happening more frequently, as well as the ramifications on, you know, the victims, themselves, of course, and teachers in the community. And really just trying to get your arms around the overall problem.
PINSKY: Owen, is it new? And what did you find out about the consequences?
LAFAVE: You know, no, it`s not something that`s new. I think it is happening with more frequency.
And I think, of course, it`s being reported more. You know, there was a point in time where the school system really kind of pushed it under the rug, and I think people are being more encouraged to come forth. And I think the media attention has helped to bring it to people`s forefront.
PINSKY: Stacy, I think -- my sense tells me that it is more frequent, because God knows we`ve had this just expanding pool of people that were victimized as children. I think we`ve gone through an epidemic of that. So it makes sense to me that we would see more exploitative relationships in situations like this.
Do you agree?
KAISER: Yes, I agree with you 100 percent. But I also think there is a combination of it is safer to come and tell your story than it ever was before. But I do. I think it`s happening more often because some people didn`t even have the idea before. So, oddly enough, people are watching this in the media, and there are actually people with mental illnesses who are thinking about now perpetrating on one of their students.
PINSKY: So we`re creating a contagion here? We shouldn`t report on this stuff? That stuff happens.
Don`t get any big ideas. All right? This is about how harmful this stuff is.
Speaking of that, I want to next go to my next guest, who is Joshua Ferrier.
Joshua, you were -- should we call you a victim of this? Is that an appropriate word?
JOSHUA FERRIER, ADMITS SEXUAL AFFAIR WITH TEACHER: Different people call me different things. You know, certainly a victim of something.
PINSKY: And let me ask you this. The thing that gets tossed around when this subject comes up is they go, oh, lucky young Joshua. Smack him on the back and say, "Good job, young man."
And, in fact -- and again, I want to make this clear to my viewers, that if you look at the data on these young men that are the object of these teachers, again, you interview people in the neighborhood and they go, oh, well, I should have been so unlucky when I was 15. Yes, you should have been. If you had been, the outcome is more sociopathy, more anti- social behavior, more drug addiction, and more criminal behavior.
It`s not good.
And in your case, Joshua, you had depression.
FERRIER: Yes, I did. And you said earlier that I became suicidal at one point. And it wasn`t actually after the story broke. It was after the relationship had ended and everything.
And I was still dealing with depression and anxiety. And back a little over a year ago, back in April of 2010, I actually made an attempt on my life just because I was having such a hard time dealing with the depression, the anxiety issues that had come along with this relationship.
PINSKY: Joshua, tell us your story. What happened?
FERRIER: Back in my senior year of high school, I became involved with a teacher at my school. She wasn`t actually my teacher, but she was a teacher at my school, nonetheless.
It started off as platonic, you know, nothing romantic or sexual about it. Just purely friendly.
And we were both going through difficult times in our lives, and we both needed someone else to listen and be there. And we found that refuge, so to speak, in each other.
But over time, it developed into something much more inappropriate and developed into a romantic relationship, a sexual relationship, that lasted for over 10 months. And that relationship, although it`s been over for quite some time now, is continually taking a toll on my life.
Depression and anxiety were just two of the effects that it had. Every day I wake up and I have to deal with the effects that it left me with, with the fallout, if you will. And it`s not easy.
And although the trial is over and everything like that, you know, the effects, the long-term effects, the lasting effects, are certainly not over. And not for me or for her, for either of our families and our friends either. And it`s difficult to wake up every morning and have to deal with it and have to motivate yourself to get out of bed and --
PINSKY: Joshua, just so I satisfy myself, you are getting treatment now for your depression, yes?
FERRIER: Both medicinal and therapy.
PINSKY: OK. That`s good. I mean, depressions are very treatable. Thank you for coming forward with this. Hopefully, Joshua, you`ll give other kids the courage to step forward, themselves, and other perpetrators a chance to pause before they do something like this.
But give me your thoughts on how you look at this whole affair now in retrospect. What do you think about the perpetrator?
FERRIER: You know, people always say, "Oh, you really must hate her," or something like that, but, you know, I don`t have any ill feelings toward her. I don`t have any anger toward her or anything like that.
I simply wish that, you know, we could both go back in time and do something about it so that it never came to be, because like I said, the long-term effects for me, for her, for our families and friends, are very long term. And it`s not something that I`ll get over in the next day, week, month. You know?
PINSKY: Thank you. Thank you, Joshua. I really do appreciate you sharing the story.
And Owen, thank you as well. We`ll check back in with you hopefully to hear more about the documentary.
Stacy, interesting to hear the victims identifying a little bit with the perpetrators. That`s something we commonly see.
KAISER: That`s concerning.
PINSKY: It`s concerning and it happens. But it`s a very serious issue.
Please, everybody, give it some thought.
When we come back, I`m on call. So get ready with your questions.
And later this week, Larry King.
And on Friday, it`s unavoidable. We`re talking about the royal wedding. Stay with us.
PINSKY: Well, I hope I have got you at home thinking a little bit about exploitative relationships and their impact. We`ve been talking specifically about student/teacher relationships. And now you guys are talking to me.
We`re going to start with Cindy. She wants to know this -- it`s a Facebook question -- "When these students become adults, do we see them suffer from depression, anxiety or drug addiction?"
Which is a great, great question, Cindy.
The fact is that, as you just heard from Joshua`s case, the psychological and psychiatric consequences can be profound. And I have read studies that show these male students, particularly, tend to have more addiction, more criminal behavior, and more problems with their personality functioning, more anti-social, sociopathic kinds of behaviors.
That leads to another question from David D. He has this question. It`s a Facebook question as well. "Do we see teachers in these types of situations target the most vulnerable students?"
And, you know, I don`t know that I can answer that in any kind of real honest way, in terms of knowing the data. But as I just said, the outcomes for these males are bad. So it makes me wonder if they already had some vulnerability. And I suspect, if I know victimizers, they do tend to pick people who are vulnerable to victimization. So I suspect the answer is yes, they`re picking a vulnerable subset.
We`re going to make a turn now to a different topic. It`s what we`re going to be talking about in the next segment, prescription drug abuse in America.
I have got a call from Karen in Michigan.
Karen, what`s going on there?
KAREN, MICHIGAN: Hi, Dr. Drew.
PINSKY: Hi, Karen.
KAREN: My question is, what are the physical and emotional effects of the long-term usage of pain medications?
PINSKY: You know, there`s long-term use and there`s long-term use. I mean, the appropriate use of pain medication without addiction, people can do that for long, long periods of times without serious consequence. But if you are an addict, it takes over the motivational systems of the brain and there`s something that people don`t talk often about. You need to know this.
If you never have your pain controlled, and you have a history of alcoholism in your family, or personal history of addiction, there`s a part of the brain that starts causing something called hyperalgesia, or the emotional charge of the pain. Pain has two components. It has a somatic component -- that`s the part that hurts in your periphery -- and it has an emotional or affective component, the sort of misery aspect. And it`s that misery piece that starts amplifying for addicts on long-term opiates. They never are comfortable, and they have a drive to continue, they have increasing consequences.
And those are the people that always have to come off these drugs if their pain is ever going to be under control.
I have another viewer question from Mark. This is a good one. I like this one. "Are doctors addicted to prescription meds because they have such ease of access?"
Yes, for the most part, I think that`s true. And doctors get a lot of addiction.
Let me tell you what. I`ve treated a lot of doctors in my time -- anesthesiologists, family practitioners, psychiatrists. These guys are very likely to get this problem.
And the one thing I`d point out is that, for doctors, interestingly enough, the only viable treatment is complete abstinence. That`s the one we reserve for ourselves, complete abstinence. No replacement therapies, nothing else, because we can`t practice medicines if we`re on medicine, if we`re on drugs.
I would just say this -- if that`s the treatment that we think is good for us, shouldn`t we be recommending that to you as well? I think so. I think abstinence is the way to go.
There are alternatives to that. But if you have addiction and you`re looking for a treatment, why don`t you seek out the one that doctors use on themselves and their peers -- complete abstinence. It`s a 12-step treatment usually.
When we come back, we`re going to continue this conversation about drugs and prescription drugs. It`s what actually President Obama considers to be one of the most serious problems of our time in America, the abuse and the addiction to prescription meds.
Stay with us.
PINSKY: Latest war on drugs is not being fought on dark street corners and in back alleys. Millions of Americans are getting their fixes from pharmacies and medicine cabinets at home, and even online. Prescription drug abuse is so serious that President Obama has just launched an initiative to fight it.
Joining me here is Attorney Robert Shapiro. He lost his son, Brent, from complications of addiction, L.A. County director of Public Health, Dr. Jonathan Fielding. He researches drug abuse, and he joins us as well, and Lora Socks. Laura is 19 years old, and she`s in recovery from the addiction to pain medication. She actually began using pain pills as a teen. Her boyfriend at the time used and sold painkillers. Laura, how old were you when you actually began using?
LORA SOCKS, RECOVERING PRESCRIPTION DRUG ABUSER: When I began abusing prescription drugs, I was 16.
PINSKY: Sixteen. And where did you get them?
SOCKS: I got them from my ex-boyfriend.
PINSKY: Where did he get them?
SOCKS: It was one of those things, don`t ask, don`t tell. I never asked, and he never told me.
PINSKY: And were you using other drugs in addition to pills or was pills your sole preoccupation?
SOCKS: Pills were my primary occupation, but alcohol definitely aided that.
PINSKY: And what happened that led to you sort of hitting a bottom and want to get well?
SOCKS: Really, I just got to a point in my life where I didn`t know how to deal with life and I didn`t want to feel feelings anymore. But I know that there was so much more to life than that, and I didn`t want to give up. So, that`s when I sought treatment from Fairbanks.
PINSKY: Let me ask you this. I`d like to know what it looks like from a young person`s perspective. In other words, how do your peers look upon the issue of the use and abuse of prescription pills? Is it very, very casual|? Or do they understand that these pills are potentially dangerous and addictive?
SOCKS: I believe everyone understands how addictive that they are, however, it`s extremely casual as well, because there`s just the mentality of indifference.
PINSKY: Where do most kids get them? Do they get them from their parent`s medicine cabinet, that kind of thing or they get them from doctors, they get them prescribed?
SOCKS: No. For the most part, most people just get them from drug dealers off the streets. And where they get them, I don`t know.
PINSKY: Dr. Fielding, you`re studying this problem. Where are most kids getting these drugs?
JONATHAN E. FIELDING, M.D., DIRECTOR, LA COUNTY DEPT. OF PUBLIC HEALTH: Well, they`re getting them several places. You`re right. Sometimes, they`re getting them in the medicine chest, and parents should make sure none of those are left in the medicine chest. But they`re also getting them from drug dealers because the drug dealers go in with fraudulent prescriptions.
They doctor shop. They go to these pill factories and they get prescriptions and they then get them at 4 or 5 bucks a pill. For OxyContin, they sell them for 20 bucks on the street. So, it`s a thriving business. And we have to route out these, you know, unscrupulous physicians and also the folks that are actually getting these prescriptions because they`re the drug dealers.
PINSKY: How about the online pharmacies? Are they contributing to this? I mean, anyone can get anything online now, right?
FIELDING: Yes. There was a recent study by Columbia, a substance abuse program there, and found that about half of those drug -- half of the online pharmacies are providing scheduled controlled substances and a significant percentage of those pain medications without a prescription. In other cases, you can click a button, click a URL and you`ll get -- somebody will give you a prescription. In other cases, you can fax a prescription. So, how easy is it to forge that?
PINSKY: I want to say something to the audience. One of the liabilities of people coming to treatment is they share war stories. They share sort of how they get their pills. And really, a liability of treatment is they find all these different kinds of techniques out, how to go online. Don`t get any ideas. That`s what I`m saying.
We`re talking about what not to do here because it is so serious. Just because it`s available online. And, by the way, parents, know that your kids could do this and look for that stuff on their histories. It`s a very, very serious problem. So, just had to say that. Robert, did your son get stuff that way? Do you know?
ROBERT SHAPIRO, SON DIED FROM DRUG OVERDOSE: You know, Drew, I think we`re all fooling ourselves. You can get drugs anywhere, any place, any time, and now, for almost no money.
SHAPIRO: It is so readily available. So, the problem is both on the demand side and on the supply side. When you`re dealing with prescription pills, let`s take OxyContin, which is certainly the most dangerous of the prescription pills and the one most abused. It is a drug that was made for people who are in stage 5 -- stage 4 of cancer, in the most severe pain.
SHAPIRO: And, yet, you can find doctors that are giving it out to their dental patients. It is one that when they give out a sample instead of giving out two or three, they`ll give out 20. And so, you`re dealing with something that is highly, highly addictive and highly seductive. Why do people take drugs? To make them feel better.
PINSKY: Because they work.
SHAPIRO: What drugs make you feel better?
SHAPIRO: The stronger the drug. The opiate. So, these are readily available. They`re overproduced by the pharmaceutical companies. They`re overprescribed by doctors. They`re readily available by pain clinics where there is no scale other than, tell me on a scale of 1 to 10, Dr. Drew, how much is your neck bothering you from your auto accident? Well, if you put down a zero, maybe you`ll get a Tylenol.
If you put down a 10, you`ll get an OxyContin or you`ll tell the doctor. You know what really works for me? So, we have two problems. Number one, the pharmaceutical companies that are overproducing, the lack of regulation, the fact people can go and shop from doctor to doctor. There`s no federal control over people getting these prescriptions filled.
We should have a system with Social Security numbers. You want to get a schedule three narcotic prescription, give us your Social Security number, we`ll track you, and we`ll send it to the DEA.
PINSKY: That makes sense. Lora, just a couple of minutes with you here. Do you think that educating kids and educating parents would have a significant impact on this? Is there just a lack of awareness?
SOCKS: Yes. I think that`s huge. I think mainly informing the parents, because I think parents often want to be naive and they want to say that, oh, my son or daughter isn`t doing that. They know better. But that`s not the attitude with the teenagers today.
PINSKY: Yes. I want to put a code on that, too, that, you know, when I`ve said this before in this program. When parents say, not my kid, that`s the scariest words I ever hear a parent say. And I would challenge parents out there, and Lora, you tell me if you agree with me on this. Go ahead and look in your medicine cabinet right now and see if you don`t have leftover painkillers, leftover sleeping pills from dental procedure or an orthopedic, something, who knows.
We treat these medicines very casually. And Dr. Fielding, don`t you agree that really, in addition to regulation, educating physicians and whatnot, that educating parents to deal with this as a serious issue that they need to address with their kids is also a core issue.
FIELDING: It`s absolutely critical, and part of it is that kids have -- their life is too removed from their parents in general. So, it`s about the communication on a whole bunch of issues of which this is very important. And then, being truthful about what the implications are. Don`t overstate them, but be clear. And take advantage. In the paper out every week, there`s a story about prescription medication abuse and overdose and death.
Take advantage of one of those opportunities to say, you know what, I just want to talk to you about this. I want to understand how you think about it, and let`s talk together as a family. If you do that, and you have straight talking, you`re much more likely to identify it to prevent a problem and identify one in its earlier stages.
PINSKY: Lora, you agree with that? Dr. Fielding says, don`t overstate it. Don`t try to dramatize you or scare you, but just give you the facts. Is that what your peers are looking for?
SOCKS: Yes. I believe so. And also, a lot of kids that I know of, they`d want help, but they are scared to tell their parents because they don`t know how their parents will react. And also, there are two or three of my friends that they`ve told their parents and their parents are like, oh, no, honey, it`s not a big deal. You`ll be OK. We`ll just get the pills out of the cabinet.
SOCKS: So, some parents underestimate and undermine the issue.
PINSKY: OK. Lora, thank you for joining us. That is a great sort of note to end with here on this particular segment which is that if your kid is -- you`re aware of it and they`re abusing pills, stealing them out of your cabinet, whether it`s opiates or benzodiazepines, you need help. You need professional help. You do. Don`t minimize it. Don`t say not my kid.
When we come back, we also have a mom now and her point of (ph) story of how she got hooked on pills and then finally off them. Millions of Americans can do this. And they can relate to this story as well. Stay with us.
PINSKY: We are talking about prescription drug abuse. Joining us is Melissa Monica. She`s a mom, and she has quite a story of her own. Like many abusers, she is the last person you`d expect to have a problem. Monica, how did this get going?
MELISSA MONICA, RECOVERING PRESCRIPTION DRUG ABUSER: Actually, after my second child, about eight months later, I had gotten pneumonia, and I believe that that is what had triggered the fibromyalgia. And for about five years, I took Ultracet and Cymbalta and tried to deal with the pain and the fatigue, and after about five years, my husband and I had come to a decision that it was somewhat a quality of life issue, debating on whether to go on narcotics or stay, you know, with the Ultracet and the treatment they had been giving me.
PINSKY: Et me ask you this. When you got off all the pills -- because this is something I see all the time, clinically. When you got off all the pills, did the pain get a lot worse for awhile before it got better?
MONICA: It did. And I also was taking about 11 other medications, Enbrel, methotrexate, Lyrica, steroids, you know, and I believe a lot of it had to do with all the side effects of these medications that I was given. And they just kept -- I think the doctors were so frustrated that they couldn`t help me that all they would do is just increased these medications.
PINSKY: Did anybody ever ask you if you have a history of addiction or a family history of addiction or alcoholism?
PINSKY: Yes. And fibromyalgia, I just want to say, you know, fibromyalgia is a treacherous syndrome. It`s not even really a specifically a diagnosis. It`s probably a number of different problems. And my patients often get put on opiates, sometimes appropriately, but when the pain gets worse on opiates, which what we see with addicts, again, as I mentioned earlier in the show, there`s a part of the brain called the insular cortex that starts dysfunctioning and causing increased misery, right? So, you`re not just in pain, but you`re also miserable, right, Melissa?
MONICA: Well, now, actually, that is not what happened to me. I was miserable when -- well, when I got off of them. Obviously, I was miserable for a little while.
MONICA: But they actually really helped with my pain, but it lowered my drive really to do anything. I`ve been a stay-at-home mom for ten years with two little children at home, and I couldn`t -- I was in the bed for a year.
PINSKY: So, you couldn`t function. So you --
PINSKY: Yes. Dr. Fielding, what do we do with the problem of overprescribing?
FIELDING: Well, a few things. First of all, we need to have a single electronic system for every prescription of a controlled substance.
PINSKY: Can I stop you? Because when people hear that there isn`t something like that, they`re always very, very surprised. Why don`t we have something like that? People really can`t get their head around the fact that there isn`t anything like that.
FIELDING: Well, there isn`t, and we need to have one because then you`d stop all the fraudulent prescription. You`d stop the doctor shopping, and you could also pick out doctors who are really prescribing in ways that are not medically appropriate.
PINSKY: What has been the delay in setting up this system? Is it a funding issue or is it a privacy issue? Is it the HIPAA laws again getting in the way?
FIELDING: Oh, I think it`s a national issue, and we`re moving towards electronic medical records, and this needs to be a subset of that and a very important one with overall federal control, because this crosses states, obviously. And we also have to have treaties with all those other countries that have these other pharmacies, the internet.
PINSKY: Online pharmacies.
FIELDING: We have to be able to reach into those. Otherwise, we`ll just push more people to the internet. So, that`s absolutely essential.
PINSKY: And Robert, I see you kind of reacting when you hear about all these pills being prescribed. Your thoughts on this?
SHAPIRO: You know, it`s an epidemic, and it`s an epidemic of enormous proportions, and it`s one that very few people other than you and Dr. Fielding and myself and the foundation that we have talked about. We have no communication about this whatsoever because people like this wonderful mother, they don`t want to talk about this because it`s shameful. They feel there`s something wrong with it.
And we`re dealing with chemical dependency disease. This is a disease. It`s, you know, if you have diabetes, people talk about it. They don`t -- they share their thoughts. They don`t let their kids two go to parties and say, oh, just have a little ice cream. The same thing with this. This is a disease. It affects people who have serious medical issues, and it affects people who want to just get high.
PINSKY: Yes. And I want to point out, when it comes to prescription drugs, it`s not just addiction. There`s also abuse. And people don`t often understand the distinction between that. Addiction, as Mr. Shapiro says, is a disease. It`s progressive. It kills people. I`m going to ask you to speak to parents out there in a second about appealing to them on this.
But also, remember, abuse is dangerous. Kids, if you look at every adverse outcome that you can measure for adolescence, young adults, these are your kids out there, if you look at pregnancies, crashes, accidents, unwanted sexual context, you look at any measure, you find alcohol and drugs always involved. Always involved. And that`s not addiction necessarily, that`s abuse.
But, Robert, please, on that camera, appeal to parents out there that are maybe minimizing or unaware or saying to themselves, not my kid.
SHAPIRO: First of all, be aware this disease and problem is everywhere. It`s not just in the lower economic stratus. It`s across the nation. Second, if you see your child acting in unusual ways, don`t think it`s just normal child behavior. If you think there is a problem, you`re right. And immediately get help. Go to professionals who really know about this disease and know that it is a progressive disease. It`s only going to get worse. It`s not going to get better.
PINSKY: And Melissa, just to finish up with you, just to get a sense of how pervasive or how much this affects a family system, can you tell us what happened to your husband and kids when you were using?
MONICA: Oh, absolutely. My husband, basically, would go to work, and I would try to take care of the kids as best as I could, and he would come home and take care of them from then on and on the weekends. And, they, basically, went on for that year or year and a half and moved on with their life while I was in the bed.
PINSKY: My understanding, though, is that they had a lot of symptoms of their own as a result of not having a mom that was ill.
MONICA: Yes, but also it`s because we are separated and some of those -- I mean, it`s a -- because of the drug addiction and the issue with the marriage, now, they are having severe issues because of it.
PINSKY: OK. Melissa, thank you for sharing the story. I think it`s just an important point to make that it`s a family disorder. It affects not just the person who`s using the pills or the drugs but affects all the people around them. Robert Shapiro, thank you. I know to say that it affected you and your wife is an understatement.
SHAPIRO: Thank you very much for having me here and spreading the word because we really have a national epidemic.
PINSKY: I completely agree with you, and Dr. Fielding, we`re going to have you and Robert Shapiro back in just a minute. So, again, I`m going to give you some final thoughts about prescription drug abuse, the impact it is having, what you need to watch for out there, but first, Joy Behar.
JOY BEHAR, HOST: Hi, Drew. You know, I`ve got 1980s teen idol, Molly Ringwald, on the show tonight. We`re going to talk about a topic near and dear to your heart, freelance mortician Lindsay Lohan. You don`t want to miss that, do you?
PINSKY: We have been talking about prescription dug abuse and addiction. How it affects all stratus of society, black, white, moms, dads, kids, professionals. You name it. I`ve seen it. Now, we have some final thoughts from our guests. Dr. Fielding, you were talking about the magnitude of the problem. I know we`ve been making progress on elicit drug use when it comes to young people, but when it comes to pills and prescription drugs, we are losing ground fast.
FIELDING: We are. In the last few years, there`s been a 35 percent increase in the number of patients coming to emergency rooms with overdose, but we estimate 1.6 million, million kids between ages 12 and 17 that are using a prescription pain medication for other uses, outside the prescribed range. So, that`s terrible.
And what we need to do is we need a national program that focuses on kids at their level that`s edgy and its builds on the experience we have with the truth campaign which was a campaign aimed at kids that talked about the tobacco industry and talked about the problems in real terms and has been shown to significantly reduce the frequency of tobacco use among kids. Tobacco, actually, is a gateway drug, but if we can do that for tobacco, we can do the same thing for these prescription pain medications.
PINSKY: But my understanding is the truth campaign came out of a settlement with tobacco companies. Are Pharmas, one day, going to be looking at a similar kind of a fund that they`re going to have to set up to fund the consequences of their drugs?
FIELDING: Well, perhaps. There`s already been very large fines levied for, you know, lack of control of production and distribution. So, my hope is that we will get funding, whether it`s from the Pharmas or whether it`s from the federal government, but this is a national epidemic, and it deserves the level of resources because it`s our kids, and it`s our kids who are going to be adults. And we want them to graduate to college and graduate to careers. We don`t want them to graduate to substance abuse.
PINSKY: Please, by the way, count me into that campaign whenever it might be. I`d glad to be a part of it. Mr. Shapiro.
SHAPIRO: What we`re doing at the Brent Shapiro Foundation for alcohol and drug awareness, we`re focusing on prevention. We`re starting at the youngest age possible. Children 5 years of age. We have a book that we distribute free to schools across the country called "Somo Says No." It`s based on a sober hero, Somo, the sober monkey. And it`s a story kids can relate to. It`s a 32-page animated book.
Any teachers or schools who want it, contact the Brent Shapiro Foundation at brentshapiro.org. We`ll send it to you free. Along with that, we have a wonderful stuffed monkey named Somo that kids can relate to that can be their new best friend. The second thing that we`re doing this year is we`re starting Brent`s Club.
It`s going to be an after school sober club for kids starting at the age of 14, because we know statistically, as you know, that if we can stop somebody from using alcohol and drugs before the age of 14, the likelihood of a long-term addiction problem would go up 5 to 800 percent. So, we are going to encourage kids with rewards.
You come to the after school club, we`ll give you tutoring. We`ll have athletes come by. And, most importantly, we`ll do things that make your life more fulfilling and more fun in a sober way.
PINSKY: Robert Shapiro, thank you so much for sharing. Dr. Fielding, I appreciate your participation.
I want to remind you, guys, look in your medicine cabinets. See what`s there. There`s a way to safely get rid of these things and make it clear to your kids these are serious medications. Thank you for watching. We`ll see you next time.