LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Statistics show that prescription drug abuse is such a problem in L.A. County that it’s now the number one reason for emergency room visits and one of the leading causes of death.

Of the 8,265 drug-related deaths between 2000 and 2009, approximately 61 percent were caused by prescription or over-the-counter drugs, according to the Department of Public Health.

Between 2005 and 2010, publicly-funded rehab facilities reported seeing a 50 percent rise in treatment for prescription drug abuse.

“We lose 36,000 annually in the U.S. from prescription drug overdoses, so L.A. County may just now becoming aware of it,” Laguna Niguel resident Vernon Porter said.

Porter lost his 22-year-old daughter, Vanessa, in 2010 after she accidentally overdosed on a drug used for cancer patients. Her death inspired Porter to raise awareness and prevent prescription drug abuse.

“We try to find purpose in our pain. The grief is so overwhelming. We can do things so that other families don’t have to endure the same pain,” Porter said.

Porter has been joined by other parents in working to get a prescription drug-monitoring program back up and running again in California. A doctor would put a prescription into a synchronized computer system and a pharmacist would make sure it’s a legitimate doctor before filling it.

“That will expose dirty doctors, counterfeit prescriptions, people who are doctor shopping, and it would really pinch the supply line at the pharmaceutical level,” he said.

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