Drug abuse still
hits home in Ojai
By Lenny Roberts
Entering the holiday season a
year ago, Ojai lost its third victim of 2002 to an accidental
opiate overdose. She was the teenage daughter of prominent members
of the community,but it could have just as easily been anyone
who abuses heroin, other pain-killing street drugs, or over-prescribed
OxyContin that winds up being dangerously ingested by our valley's
Thus far this year, there have been no deaths related to the
use or abuse of opiate drugs within the boundaries of the Ojai
Valley. But Sheriff's Capt./Ojai Police Chief Gary Pentis said
there are three to five reported nonfatal local overdoses involving
opiate-based narcotics each month.
"There are a couple of reasons for that," Pentis explained.
"We were having a lot of combo overdoses with those who
were heavily drinking or using Vicodin with opiates. Now, people
have become more educated. They know how much OxyContin you can
crush and ingest, and what it should not be mixed with."
Abuse of illegal and prescription drugs in the Ojai Valley remains
the No. 1 problem in our community, according to Pentis. This
week's Police Blotter contains 18 arrests, 14 of which were for
alleged narcotics-related violations, and no amount of preaching
or drug education programs seem to get the message across to
those who insist on gambling with their lives.
Some headway may have been made in stopping the supply of OxyContin
Tuesday when Oxnard Dr. Michael B. Huff and Ventura pharmacist
Richard Ozar were arrested on a federal indictment that alleges
the pair has directly or indirectly supplied much of the OxyContin
that reaches the illegal market in Ventura County and beyond.
"There's been some benefit because prior to his arrest,
Huff was suspended by the California State Medical Board, stopping
his ability to prescribe OxyContin," Pentis said.
Records show that Huff, 55, a physician and surgeon, received
a license to practice medicine in California on Feb. 4, 1980.
He graduated from the Autonomous University of Guadalajara Faculty
of Medicine in 1977, and was suspended July 7, 2003. To be reinstated
April 4, 2004, he must pass an examination. The suspension further
requires that he will remain on probation for seven years. His
reinstatement, however, will depend on the outcome of the criminal
charges. Both Huff and Ozar, the 58-year-old owner of Victoria
Village Pharmacy, were charged with 90 federal counts of suspicion
of conspiring to distribute prescription medication.
"Through intelligence interviews," Pentis continued,
"we know of local suspects using and selling in our area
that track back to patients who have received prescriptions through
Pentis believes that, based on the quantity of pills that have
been allegedly prescribed by Huff's practice, the suspects have
grossed millions of dollars. He called this crime one of the
most egregious cases involving a doctor and pharmacist in the
nation. Many of the drugs are obtained from people who have a
prescription for the powerful painkiller.
"We have had thefts from patients' homes in this valley
when the word gets out that they are legitimate users. These
are people suffering from cancer who have a real need for Oxycontin."
Besides being stolen or over-prescribed, OxyContin reaches the
street-drug community by online "drug stores" and forged
prescriptions presented at pharmacies. Fortunately, Pentis said,
"We have wonderful cooperation with our local pharmacies."
While describing the latest curriculum
used by D.A.R.E. regarding life choices as educational and informative,
Pentis said in order for the abandoned program to have succeeded,
continued support from law enforcement, schools and family would
have been more effective than a one-time push near the end of
a child's middle school years.
"D.A.R.E. was one helpful component," Pentis said.
"But the real loss of the program through the budget cut
was losing the excellent relationship builder between law enforcement
and youth. Law enforcement has a positive role in the schools."
In re-examining the truth about drug abuse in the Ojai Valley,
we have spoken to students, educators, a recovering young adult
who nearly destroyed his life, and to the parent of a child who
was issued a restraining order for her own safety.
The Ojai Valley News
to the news
recovering drug abuser
An Ojai mom deals with
a drug-addicted child