By Steve Hayes
Director, Novus Medical, Detox Center of Pasco County LLC
TEEN PRESCRIPTION DRUG ABUSE
Accordingto the Partnership for a Drug-Free America:
–1 in 5 teens has abused aprescription pain medication
–1 in 5 teens report abusingprescription stimulants and tranquilizers
–1 in 10 teens have abused coughmedication
According to the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy:
Though overall teen drug use isdown nationwide, more teens abuse prescription drugs than any otherillicit drug except marijuana – more than cocaine, heroin, andmethamphetamine combined.
Every day, 2,500 kids aged12-17 abuse a prescription painkiller for the first time and more peopleare getting addicted to prescription drugs.
Drug treatment admissions forprescription painkillers increased more than 300 percent from 1995 to2005.
Teens are abusing prescriptiondrugs because many believe the myth that these drugs provide a”safe” high.
Especially troubling is thatthe majority of teens who abuse prescription drugs say they are easy toget and are often free.
At Novus; some of our patients are young people who tell us about parties that kidsas young as 11 attend. Instead of bringing a present, each child is tobring some prescription drugs that they got from their parents’ medicinecabinet.
When they arrive at the party, they go into a room and pour the drugs into a punch bowl. Then the kids will take turns reaching into thebowl and taking a handful of pills. Sometimes the kids combine this with alcohol–an often lethal combination.
When confronted by astounded parents, their children often remark that it is O.K. because these are not illegal drugs– they were purchased at a pharmacy and,after all, they were in their parents’ medicine cabinet. A 15-year-oldwas quoted as saying that she saw the drug advertised on television and if itwere dangerous it wouldn’t be on television.
SOME DON’T GET A SECOND CHANCE
Itis not pleasant, but if you spend a few minutes on the internet you will seenot statistics but real stories of prescription drug overdoses and deaths ofteens. In many of these instances, the fatal drug overdose did notcome after long periods of prescription drug use. The fatal overdoses came the first time they took the prescription drugs. Maybe itwas their individual DNA. Maybe it was the way that the drug was metabolized. Maybe it was another substance that they had taken, like alcohol or another prescription drug. The only thing for sure is that some young people have overdosed and died after their first use.
One18 year old died after taking 40 milligrams of Oxycontin while drinking a beer. A 16 year old died after taking 80 milligrams of OxyContin that she was given by a “friend.” Some of the other deceased children’s parents said that they didn’t believe in taking any type of drugs, but that didn’t stop their children from yielding to peer pressure and “trying” the drug.
MOST ABUSED DRUGS
Painkillers(OxyContin and its generic form oxycodone, Lortab, Vicodin, Percodan,Percocet and the Fentanyl Patch) are the most common pharmaceuticals abused byteens, especially by younger teens. Stimulants (Ritalin, Adderall) abuse ismore common among older teens and college students than youngerteens. Benzodiazepines (Xanax, Valium, Klonopin) are abused byteens of all ages.
Oxies,OC, hillbilly heroin, oxycotton, 80s, percs, vikes, and vikings are commonlyused terms to refer to painkillers. Ritz, rippers, dexies, and benniesare commonly used terms to refer to stimulants. Benzos, xanies,xani-bars, xani-bombs, and roofies are commonly used terms to refer tobenzodiazepines.
Everyoneunderstands that heroin is a dangerous drug and many people die from heroinoverdoses. What parent would not be horrified if their children tookheroin? However, if your children are taking these narcotic painkillers,they are taking drugs that mimic the effects of heroin in the body.
Everyoneunderstands that cocaine is a dangerous drug. What parent wants theirchildren to use cocaine? However, many parents watch their children takeRitalin and Adderall, two heavy stimulants that are Schedule II drugs-just likecocaine. In 2006, it is estimated that three out of 10 high schoolseniors abuse prescription stimulants.
Stimulantside effects include dilated pupils, increased heart and respiratory rates,elevated blood pressure, feelings of restlessness, anxiety, and delusions,hostility and aggression, and panic, suicidal, or homicidal tendencies. Overdose or death is preceded by high fever, convulsions, and heart failurewhich may be hastened by physical activity.
Benzodiazepinescan cause dilated pupils and slurred speech, feelings of intoxication, loss ofmotor coordination, respiratory depression, sensory alteration, depression andlowered blood pressure. In younger children these side effects aremultiplied and can lead to seizures and, if not immediately addressed, death.
Sinceantidepressants (Paxil, Prozac, Effexor, Lexapro) are prescribed now foreverything from weight loss to muscle pain, they are in many medicine cabinetsand are left lying on bedside tables. As we discussed last week, there isnow evidence that these drugs are no more effective than a placebo (sugar pill)and that they are linked to 52% of the suicides by women in Sweden in2006. The FDA has ordered suicide and violence warnings placed on theantidepressant boxes if these dangerous drugs are taken by teenagers becausethese violent side effects are even more prevalent in younger people.
Thedanger to teens from all of these prescription drugs is greatly increased whenthey are combined with each other or with alcohol.
Nocaring parent would leave heroin, cocaine or other dangerous street drugs ontheir nightstand or in the medicine cabinet or just dump it in thegarbage. However, many parents do exactly this with legal heroin, legalcocaine: antidepressants and benzodiazepines.
BANKRUPTCY AND POSSIBLE PRISON FOR NEGLIGENT PARENTS
Inour society where it seems that every bad thing must be blamed on someone elseand that someone else should pay, there is real financial and legal liabilityif these dangerous drugs are taken by teens.
Mostof us are aware that if a child obtains a loaded gun from our house and someoneis harmed, we can have both civil and criminal liability for not havingproperly locked up the weapon. We have read of people being suedand losing their homes and most of their assets because of the use of the unsecured weapon. We have also seen people who have actually been prosecuted fortheir negligence of leaving a loaded gun around and were sent to prison.
Prescriptiondrugs are highly regulated. They can only be obtained if a doctor writesa prescription. They carry many serious warnings. Every day thereare more stories about prescription drug abuse, the dangers of prescription drugs and the deaths caused by prescription drugs.
Ifyour son or daughter were to give another child these prescription drugs andthey were to overdose and die, it is highly likely that a civil suit againstyou for negligence will result in your having to pay damages.
Thereis also a chance that you could face criminal prosecution for your leavingdangerous drugs around that could lead to the death of another.
Maybeyour child is an entrepreneur and does not take the prescription drugs that heor she gets from your medicine cabinet or bed side table but instead sells them to others. Possession of controlled substances with intent to sell is acrime. The painkillers are mostly Schedule II drugs. Ritalin andAdderall are Schedule II drugs. Most benzodiazepines areSchedule IV drugs.
Accordingto the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s report “Crime in the United States”, there were 143,639 juveniles arrested by state and local law enforcement agencies for drug abuse violations during 2006, representing 10.4% of the drugarrests in which the offender’s age was reported.
Ifyour child is caught in possession of any amount of painkillers or stimulantshere are the federal guidelines:
First Offense: Not more than 20 years. If death or serious injury, not less than 20 years, or more than life. Fine $1 million.
Second Offense: Not more than 30 years. Ifdeath or serious injury, not less than life. Fine $2 million.
If your child is caught with benzodiazepines, here are the federal guidelines:
First Offense: Not more than 3 years. Fine not more than $250,000.
Second Offense: Not more than6 years. Fine not more than $500,000.
Obviously,if your child is treated as a minor the guidelines can be different, but it isstill drug trafficking. By leaving prescription drugs around and bynot educating our kids about the dangers of prescription drugs, they risk notonly serious injury or death but also prison.
Art Linkletter hosted a television show for a number of years entitled, “Kids Say the Darndest Things.” He would tape kids responding to various things and it was quite humorous. Well, kids still say the darndest things but sometimes what they say is not so humorous.
Forexample, “But Mommy you take them.” Or, “But Daddy itisn’t like I am taking heroin or something.” Or, “But we onlytook two.” Or, “But they are legal aren’t they.” Or,”But a doctor wouldn’t give something dangerous.” Or,”But I saw all the good things it can do on television. If it were bad
they wouldn’t let it be advertised.”
However, some parents have heard this: “I’m sorry. We couldn’t save her.” Or, “The different prescription drugs he took caused him to have a seizure and we couldn’t revive him.” Or, “I know that she only took one OxyContin. I’m sorry for your loss.”
Please help educate our children to the dangers of these prescription drugs. Please help us keep more parents from hearing that their child could not berevived.
Representatives of Novus Medical Detox Center are speaking at churches, schools, service groups and other venues to educate children andtheir parents. Larry Golbom at prescription addiction radio.com is educating his listeners. But compared to the tens of billions of dollars spent by the drug companies, making prescription drugs seem the answer to any problems, it is going to take a real grass roots movement to make peopleaware of the problem and solutions to it.
Please pass this article on to your friends and neighbors. The life you save maybe your child’s.