Lodi police detectives watched for three hours, staking out a home on Adobe Court in Lodi. They were waiting to search a house that was suspected of being a place for drug buys.
Police had been informed that Sean Preszler, 23, was selling oxycodone, a heavy-duty pain relief medication, out of the house.
Finally, their wait paid off. They found Preszler at home, and served the warrant. Inside the house, police said they found nearly 100 round, blue pills — Oxycodone — and about $5,000 in cash.
Sean Preszler was arrested on suspicion of possessing and selling narcotics, and his father, David Preszler Sr., was arrested for possessing a narcotic without a prescription.
Addiction to prescription pills is a prevalent problem in Lodi. Teenagers have parties where they exchange medications they find at home.
In the past month in Lodi, roughly 25 people have been arrested on suspicion of possible possession or sale of narcotics. That does not include the number of people who have been arrested for possibly driving under the influence of a controlled substance.
Prescription pills are the second-most abused drug next to marijuana, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.
In response, the Lodi Police Department is participating in a nationwide event today where unused and expired prescription medications will be collected, no questions asked.
It is just one tactic in a campaign against a growing problem.
'Pharm parties' in Lodi
In Lodi, it can be considered "cool" among high school students to throw "pharm parties," said Detective Steve Maynard with the Lodi Police Department.
Pharm parties involve students raiding their parents' or grandparents' medicine cabinets, snagging whatever pills may be inside prescription bottles. Pills meant to curb pain from surgeries or injuries, like Oxycodone or Vicodin, are prevalent.
The drugs may or may not be expired, Maynard said, but the point for the kids is to try and get high.
Oxycodone and other prescription drugs in Lodi such as Vicodin or Valium are prevalent among users and abusers because they provide the highest high.
Narcotics are are highly addictive because they change the chemistry of the brain. Natural and synthetic narcotics decrease the perception of pain and alter the body's reaction to pain.
The most common pattern of abuse starts with experimental or recreational use of narcotics. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, the majority of people who experiment may abuse narcotics sporadically for months or even years.
The younger a person is when they begin trying or using drugs, the more likely the drug use will progress to dependence and addiction, according to the DEA.
But who are the buyers, and who are the sellers in Lodi?
Buyers tend to be younger individuals, Lodi police detectives said. High-schoolers and 20-somethings seem to be the most prevalent purchasers of prescription pills.
They say they have growing pains, that their body hurts, and to quell the pain, doctors prescribe pain medications. Or they find it in their parents' home.
The sellers, however, are more surprising.
Older people, even grandparents, are purveyors of illegal narcotics.
Detective Nick Rafiq said he has encountered situations in which the supplier for drug dealers has been someone's grandmother who was suffering from an illness such as cancer and actually provided medication to a family member or friend.
Those battling late stages of disease do not seem to care if they get caught. Their attitude, said Rafiq, is: Why not?
"These are not necessarily your average citizens who get addicted," Maynard said. "They leave their families, they commit crimes and they get kicked out of their homes, just to support their addiction."
A national problem
The rise in the number of people using prescription drugs to get high is not contained to Lodi — it is a national trend.
According to data released by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, the average age at which prescription drugs are first consumed is 12 years old.
The most recent data, from the year 2010, indicates that only marijuana surpassed non-medical use of pain relievers as the No. 1 drug choice for individuals to experiment with as their first tap into narcotics.
The survey states that roughly 55 percent of those who tried prescription drugs got them from a family member or friend.
This is the most common way prescription drugs are obtained, especially with young adults, according to Jeffrey Scott, a spokesperson for the Drug Enforcement Administration.
"Just because prescription medications are legal does not mean they are safe," he said. "Just because they are available does not mean they are there to be used recreationally. They are called 'controlled substances' for a reason."
The most recent data from the survey also indicates how many people actually deal with substance abuse. In the survey, it indicated roughly 22.6 million people, or almost 9 percent of the total U.S. population, have been identified as having substance dependence or as abusing drugs.
The massive number of people with addictions, according Scott, is thanks in large part to pharmaceutical companies who regularly churn out new prescription medications that can be easily abused.
Of those who abuse or are dependent on drugs, prescription drugs proved to be the most popular choice.
Finding a solution
Finding a solution to the rising prescription pill pandemic can be difficult, particularly if the individual does not believe they need help.
According to the Center for Behavioral Health, statistics show that roughly 2 million visits to the emergency room in hospitals nationwide were a result of the misuse or abuse of drugs.
And of those 2 million visits, 35 percent were for the abuse or misuse of prescription pharmaceuticals — the highest percentage of emergency-related hospital visits involving drugs.
For those who suffer from drug addiction or drug dependence, however, there are options. One is to join a self-help group.
JoJo Ward-Rimmer co-founded Lodi's Sunhouse with her husband Rodney Rimmer.
Sunhouse is a program that helps addicts who have reached out for help, so they can find the right ways to cope with their drug dependence.
Rimmer was an addict herself, dabbling in everything from crack cocaine to prescription medication. Now clean and sober, she said it is like watching a birth take place in front of her as she helps each person in her program find a way out of addiction and back into society.
"I would tell them this is just the beginning," she said of those walking into her program for the first time. "There is so much more going on, there is so much more out there. It's time for 'game on.'"
Contact reporter Katie Nelson at email@example.com.