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From an Early Age, Shereen Khatapoush Saw the Horrors of Substance Abuse

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From an Early Age, Shereen Khatapoush Saw the Horrors of Substance Abuse

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This article was written by Noozhawk Staff Writer Alex Kacik as part of Day 6 in Noozhawk's 12-day, six-week special investigative series. Related links are below.

The Noozhawk's Prescription for Abuse series is a special project exploring the misuse and abuse of prescription medications in Santa Barbara County. Our series is a result of an exciting and unique partnership with USC's Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism, which awarded Noozhawk a California Endowment Health Journalism Fellowship to undertake this important work.

Through our reporting and presentation, we will establish an independent baseline of where our community is with respect to the misuse and abuse of prescription medications; how the problem is affecting health care, education, law enforcement, criminal justice, addiction and treatment, and our culture and society; what we as a community can do to educate ourselves about prevention and controls; and how we can perhaps reverse what appears to be a very troubling trend.

Noozhawk staff writers Lara Cooper and Giana Magnoli are the lead reporters on the project, and they've been assisted by managing editor Michelle Nelson; reporters Alex Kacik and Sonia Fernandez; interns Kristin Crosier, Jessica Ferguson, Tim Fucci, Kristen Gowdy, Jessica Haro, Daniel Langhorne, Alexa Shapiro, Sam Skopp, Erin Stone and Sarah Webb; photographers Garrett Geyer and Nick St.Oegger; content producer Cliff Redding; and Web development staffers Will Macfadyen and Edgar Oliveira.

Ashley Almada, Garrett Geyer, Hailey Sestak and Billy Spencer of the Santa Barbara Teen News Network filmed more than two dozen public-service videos featuring many of our story sources.

The project is sponsored by the Santa Barbara Foundation in partnership with KEYT, sbTNN and Zona Seca. The Annenberg School is assisted by the Renaissance Journalism Center at San Francisco State University.


Day One:

» Quiet Epidemic of Prescription Drug Abuse Taking a Toll on Santa Barbara County

» After Losing It All, Former Drug Addict Looking Forward to Renewed Life

» USC, California Endowment Unite to Support Health Journalism at the Source

» Bill Macfadyen: Prescription for Abuse Project Is a Series of Opportunities

Day Two:

» Local, National Statistics Reveal Alarming Jumps in Misuse and Abuse of Medications

» Marijuana Use Trends Higher, Especially Among Young Adults, Sparking Public Health Concerns

» Alcohol Plays a Role All Its Own in Setting the Stage for Local Abuse, Overdoses

Day Three:

» Understanding Addiction Key to Dealing With Prescription Drug Abuse

» Donna Genera Has Seen the Price and Perils of Drug Addiction from All Sides

» Rich Detty Bears Burden of Not Knowing Extent of Dead Son's Drug Use

Day Four:

» Escalation of Drug Overdose Deaths Includes Increased Presence of Prescription Medications

» Santa Barbara Teen News Network Adds Another Dimension to Prescription Drug Abuse Series

» Dr. Chris Lambert Sounds Warning on Mixing Prescription Drugs with Alcohol

Day Five:

» Local Oversight of Prescription Medications Is Far More Focused Than State, Federal Controls

» Elderly Are Particularly Vulnerable to Both Misuse and Abuse of Prescription Drugs

» Second-Generation Pharmacist Peter Caldwell Fills a Vital Role with Patient Health Care

Day Six:

» Early Education for Parents and Youth Emerges as Critical Tactic to Thwart Drug Use

» Student Highs Can Lead to Tragic Woes with Addiction's Hook Just One Fateful Step Away

» From an Early Age, Shereen Khatapoush Saw the Horrors of Substance Abuse

» As a Parent Herself, Prosecutor Von Nguyen Brings Empathy to Job in Juvenile Justice

Day Seven:

» Law Enforcement Fights Battle Against Prescription Drug Abuse from Outside and Inside

» Sheriff Bill Brown a Strong Supporter of Re-Entry, Drug Abuse Treatment Efforts

» Speaking from Experience, Zona Seca's Kevin Smith Keeps Drug Abusers on Road to Recovery

Day Eight:

» Prescription Drug System Is Rife with Loopholes, Fraud and Lack of Oversight

» For Clinical Psychologist Neil Rocklin, Addiction Education Can't Begin Soon Enough

Day Nine:

» Drug Abuse Treatment Programs, Expertise Are Plentiful on South Coast

» Dr. David Agnew Sees Pain as Pathway to Abuse But Cautions Against Overreaction

Day Ten:

» Awareness, Disposal Key Elements to Reversing Tide of Prescription Drug Abuse

» Dr. Joe Blum Keeps Focus on His Veteran Patients Despite Health-Care System's Restraints

Day Eleven:

» Operation Medicine Cabinet Gets the Drop on Prescription Drug Disposal

» Lacey Johnson Gives UCSB Students an Education in Dealing with Drug Abuse and Addiction

Day Twelve:

» Santa Barbara County Officials Look for Solutions in Battle Against Prescription Drug Abuse

» Noozhawk Journalists Recount Lessons Learned from Prescription Drug Abuse Series

» Annenberg Fellowships Take a Diverse Approach to Community Health Journalism

» Dr. Nancy Leffert Champions Antioch University's Role in Fight Against Substance Abuse

» Professionals Working in Addiction Field Often Share Roots at Antioch University Santa Barbara

Council on Alcoholism & Drug Abuse staffer works with youth — and their parents — to educate themselves and their community
Monday, September 26, 2011

Name: Shereen Khatapoush

Location: Santa Barbara

Occupation: Youth drug abuse worker

Shereen Khatapoush chose her career path when she was 15 years old.

“One of my best friends let someone who had been drinking drive her car, there were four people in the car and three of them died,” she said. “It was in my early formative years when I learned what real damage alcohol and other drugs can cause. This can be prevented, I thought. Lives could be saved.”

Khatapoush is now Youth Services System director of the Santa Barbara Council on Alcoholism & Drug Abuse. The program provides drug-related education, prevention and intervention for middle and high school students throughout Santa Barbara County.

Khatapoush graduated from UCSB, where she started a Students Against Destructive Decisions chapter to demonstrate what poor judgement can lead to.

She joined CADA in 1993, a year after it was awarded a $3 million Fighting Back grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to combat alcohol and drug abuse.

“There’s a large substance abuse problem in this area,” Khatapoush said. “We live in a community and culture that is conducive (for abuse) for a number of reasons.”

One of the main factors behind substance abuse is accessibility. Santa Barbara is a tourist destination and has a high number of off- and on-sale outlets, she said.

When it comes to prescription medications, doctors are overprescribing pills and that prescription can sometimes lead to a false sense of security, Khatapoush said.

“A lot of it comes from a take-a-pill culture,” she said. “Drug companies are doing a good job pushing pills and doctors are writing more prescriptions, so it’s more available. People have a perception of safety (when it comes to prescription drugs).”

According to a 2010-2011 Santa Barbara County study, 17 percent of high school juniors have tried prescription pain killers at least once.

“There is a lot less stigma associated with taking a pill,” Khatapoush said. “It’s not like injecting or snorting something so people feel more safe.”

Khatapoush said one of the most effective ways to deter prescription drug abuse is educating parents through programs like Operation Medicine Cabinet, a joint effort between the Sheriff’s Department and the county Public Works Department. The two agencies have installed secure drop boxes at nine sheriff’s substations so residents can get rid of all types of unwanted medications, including prescriptions and over-the-counter drugs.

“There needs to be education and supply reduction,” she said. “Doctors need to be more conscious of the prescriptions being written and people need to understand if they don’t take their full course of medication there are easy ways to dispose of what they don’t use.”