News and recent studies have shown that a new and disturbing form of substance abuse is widespread and growing and it's more alarming than crack/cocaine or cannabis or heroin addiction. This is the prescription-drug addiction that is now prevalent in 12-17 year old and definitely more dangerous. Why more dangerous? Because these drugs are prescribed by doctors and can be bought over-the-counter. This addiction is so much nearer to our homes and easier to access because all they have to do is turn to the most unlikely source - our very own medicine cabinet.
It is said that in 2006, more than 2.1 million teens ages 12-17 reported abusing prescription drugs. And every day almost 2,500 teens abuse a pain reliever the first time. Since they are very accessible, they now abuse prescription drugs more than any illegal drug except marijuana. Those kids who may be afraid to try using heroin or crack are less scared to try these drugs that they see on their medicine cabinet. Recently, some 400 police departments and law enforcement agencies in New Jersey launched a program called Operation Medicine Cabinet. And on Nov 14, 2009 over 9,500 pounds of unused and expired prescription drugs and medicines were collected. These pharmaceutical and prescription drugs were collected because there has been an escalation in the number of youth using these drugs to get their high.
According to Gerard McAleer of DEA, "Pharmaceutical and prescription drugs are meant to save lives, treat ailments and/or alleviate pain." These are the painkillers prescribed after surgery, sleeping pills and anti-anxiety drugs, and stimulants such as the ones prescribed for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and even the cough and cold remedies. Prescription drugs should only be used when prescribed by someone wearing medical uniforms - a licensed doctor, and taken by a person to which these are prescribed and for the symptoms identified. These drugs are only safe and effective when taken under a healthcare professional's care and supervision for medical purposes only. Yes, they can help certain people live more productive lives and free from the symptoms they are suffering from. But then, they are prescribed for certain conditions only.
Sadly, data from Partnership for a Drug-Free America indicate that one in five teens report having used prescription drugs to get high and 1 out of 10 reports having abused over-the-counter (OTC) cough medicines to get high and 28 percent know someone who has tried it. The numbers are growing and is alarming. Some kids experiment with some prescribed drugs because of the side effect they might have heard from their parents themselves. Take for example a young girl who heard her parents talking about how her brother's ADHD medicine was making him less hungry. And because she wanted to lose weight then she thought she could use it to curb her appetite.
The painkillers (opiates and opioids) - the most-abused prescription drug class - are meant to be used for a short time only, unless one has a long-term condition like arthritis and back pain. These opiates can get you hooked since they affect the brain and spinal cord. Another category of prescription drugs often abused is the stimulants which are prescribed for people with ADHD and severe obesity. Side effects of abuse from these stimulants are extremely unpleasant psychologically and physically such as increase in body temperature, heartbeat and worse can lead to seizure or heart attack. Sedatives and tranquilizers are recommended for people who have trouble sleeping, nervous and anxious. Abuse from these drugs can cause poor memory and judgment, lack of coordination and even have ideas of suicide. Combining these sedatives and tranquilizers with painkillers can result to death.
Educating parents and the children from the dangers of medicine abuse is very important. Go to organizations that can help you discuss things with your kids. Any unused prescription drug should be removed from the medicine cabinet because sometimes kids think that since they are prescribed by the doctor then these can do no harm. Parents and guardians should learn the proper disposal of prescription drugs. And once parents have learned about the issue of prescription drug abuse, they should spread it and make their friends aware of the issue too. And most importantly, make sure your kids know the dangers of medicine abuse. Talk to them about it and make sure that they understand that you do NOT approve of any kind of substance abuse. And always maintain an open communication with them so you know what they are up to, how they are, who their friends are and they know that you are always there for them.