There’s a lot that could be said about Richmond County Sgt. Greg Meagher, who tragically died this past Sunday after attempting to save a woman’s life in a facility that was rapidly filling with a chemical cloud from liquid nitrogen.
Meagher had been with the sheriff’s office for 33 years.
During a drug sting in Burke County more than a decade ago, he was shot in the face and miraculously survived.
Meagher was a former drug investigator and he took his job very seriously.
But more than that, he was funny and passionate about life and devoted to helping others.
A few years ago, Meagher sat down with a Metro Spirit reporter and talked about the growing problem of prescription drug abuse.
He was blunt about the dangers this entire country was facing.
“It’s the pills that are killing our kids,” he said without any hesitation. “I can promise you that.”
Meagher had spent more than 25 years working in the narcotics division and he had seen a lot of drug trends come and go.
But he believed the rise in prescription drug abuse in the Augusta area was more than just alarming. It was deadly.
“I can remember being a young narc out on the street and you’d get a guy who had a Valium in his pocket, and he carried the Valium in his pocket because he was doing cocaine,” Meagher said. “So, when he got all wired up on cocaine, he had to calm down a little bit. Well, we would take that Valium and crush it out on the ground. It was no big deal.”
These days, the same scenario has a much different result, he said.
“Nowadays, they are going to jail for that Valium in their pocket,” Meagher said. “Why? Because it is an epidemic. These people are out there every day. That one pill in their pocket is to get them by for just then.”
People who abuse prescription drugs are always on the lookout for ways they can get more, Meagher said.
“And prescription drugs are out there. Do you know where they are at?” he asked. “They are in your medicine cabinets. They are in your grandmother’s medicine cabinets. You know why those kids are going to Grandma’s house? They don’t care about Grandma. They are going to get in that medicine cabinet.”
It was harsh reality that was sent by a man that friends frequently called, “Red.”
Throughout his lifetime, he had seen the tragic impact prescription drug abuse could have on families.
It was beyond devastating, he said.
Meagher wasn’t afraid to tell people about what he’d seen in his lifetime. In fact, he would frequently speak publicly about the local drug problems. He had a hope that his message would change a life or help save a family from the pain of drug addiction.
And he knew the numbers.
During an Augusta Coalition for Addiction Recovery Awareness event, he talked about a study by the National Institute on Drug Abuse that found an estimated 493,000 people ages 12 or older used a prescription pain reliever for non-medical reasons for the first time over the 12-month period.
That averaged out to around 1,350 people experimenting with a prescription pain reliever per day.
One of the main reasons why Meagher believed prescription drugs were tempting for teens and young adults was because they are viewed to be “safer than illicit drugs.”
“High school kids don’t care what they are putting in their bodies,” he said. “If the pharmacy says it’s good, it’s good. But the truth is, prescription drug overdoses and deaths are triple the overdose deaths of cocaine and meth right now.”
He told the Metro Spirit reporter that the public needed to have a better understanding of prescription opioid abuse, its addictiveness and the high risk for overdosing.
Meagher also warned that some doctors in the CSRA are compounding the problem.
“These doctors who are prescribing Oxycontin, muscle relaxers and Valium: it’s called the holy trinity,” Meagher said. “Those three drugs, when used in conjunction, people will tell you they are on cloud nine. They love it.”
Prescription drug abusers will seek out these doctors who have a reputation for prescribing opioids, he said.
“When they go to the pill mills, you are only allowed to get three prescriptions at a time,” Meagher said. “They go in and pay a $100 prescription, they get the three prescriptions, then they have to leave and they can’t come back for an hour. After an hour, they come back in, they can get three more prescriptions after they pay another $100.”
Meagher said he had seen it with his own eyes.
“And these are real doctors that are prescribing them,” he said. “Where are their morals? I have no idea.”
While the majority of physicians in the Augusta area are extremely responsible when prescribing medication, Meagher said the sheriff’s department has worked hard trying to weed out the problem clinics.
“We’ve had pill mills in Augusta that we’ve shut down and Columbia County has had a couple that they’ve shut down,” he said. “We’ve really worked them hard because not only does it bring our people down, but you ride through those parking lots you’ll see license tags from Tennessee, Kentucky, Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, all of the southern states, all in that parking lot.”
One crooked doctor can attract a lot of attention, he said.
“Those folks are all sitting out there in their cars talking about how they are getting their 120 Oxycontins and 120 Valiums,” Meagher said. “And they are going home and selling them for $10 a piece. So, they are paying $100 for the prescription and selling them for $10 a piece.”
When local law enforcement catches these doctors make such prescriptions or arrest those illegally selling prescription drugs, Meagher said the courts need to throw the book at them.
“We really need to work on the prosecution part of these people because a lot of these cases get dismissed because prosecutors don’t believe that this is a real problem. And it is a problem,” he said. “It is killing our kids.”
Meagher was speaking from the heart.
He was disgusted with doctors pushing the prescription pills just to make some serious bank.
He wanted parents to be aware about the changes in their children.
He knew the warning signs and was always eager to share them with any parent who was willing to listen.
In fact, he offered many people a challenge.
Meagher would ask people during his speeches, if you don’t believe prescription drug abuse is a problem in the CSRA, simply ask some of the folks working in downtown Augusta.
“Go down on Broad Street sometime, go to a restaurant,” Meagher would say. “I’ll bet you half the staff is taking Darvocets and Percocets, if they can find Percocets now, and Oxycontins. Why? Because they can work all day and not get tired, without all of the geekiness from meth and stuff like that.”
Prescription pills are out there and being abused on a regular basis, Meagher would warn people.
“That, to me, is a major, major problem that has got to be addressed and if it is not addressed soon, we are going to start losing these kids left and right, because they are dying,” he warned. “They are dying out there.”
Thank you, Sgt. Meagher, for the tremendous impact you had on the Augusta area.
We need more men like you.
The family of Sgt. Greg Meagher will receive friends and visitors at King Funeral Home at 124 Davis Rd. in Martinez from 6-8 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 9. Sgt. Meagher’s funeral service will be held at the Church of the Most Holy Trinity at 720 Telfair St. on Friday, Feb. 10, at noon. After the service, a procession will leave the church and go to Westover Cemetery for interment. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made “In Honor of, In Memory of Sgt. Greg Meagher” to The Police Benevolent Foundation (PBF). One hundred percent of all donations will go to Sgt. Greg Meagher’s children and grandchild. Donations can be made at donatenow.networkforgood.org/sergeantmeaghermemorialfund.