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Monday, February 13, 2012

Passive Pushers? Ohio Kids Deserve Better

The entry today is a plea. We simply must invest in drug prevention education. The youth of our country are being done a unforgivable injustice by individuals and firms cashing in on the nation's biggest "cash cow." And, the irony is that most people are content to follow these once-trusted healthcare icons like lemmings to the edge of a deadly cliff.

America has become the Prescription Nation that dotes on the belief in the healing power of the almighty pill. Interestingly, United States healthcare quality and efficiency are not even close to the best in the world. The U.S. ranks 37th on the list behind most EU countries with government-run single-payer universal healthcare, and according to America’s Health Rankings (2010), Ohio placed 34th in the nation for healthcare status.  Clearly, the country and the state need to improve. Better education will help accomplish this needed reform.

Due to "a pill for every ill" mentality, youth have grown accustomed to seeking relief, refuge, and recreation in rx drugs. The "OK philosophy" of rx dependence is supported by many sources that range from the liberal media and its portrayal of the relative safety of prescription drugs to the criminal actions of greedy and unethical pharmaceutical companies, physicians, and pharmacists. Half-truths and lies about prescription drugs burn misconceptions into the brains of young people that eventually maim and kill them. We must learn the truth and teach it with confidence that knowledge is power.

The Truth About 
the Death of Young Ohioians   

While auto crashes represent the leading cause of death among young drivers (ages 16-18) in Ohio, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that drugs now kill more people than motor vehicle accidents -- both in Ohio and across the nation. This is a monumental shift that reflects a troubling rise in prescription drug abuse.

Drug overdoses and brain damage linked to long-term drug abuse killed an estimated 37,485 people in 2009, the latest year for which preliminary data are available, surpassing the toll of traffic accidents by 1,201.  

Dr. Leonard Paulozzi, medical epidemiologist at the CDC's division of unintentional injury prevention, said prescription drugs were driving up the death toll.

According to a survey taken at Columbia University by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA), getting access to prescription medications is easier than buying alcohol. The students surveyed said that the drugs of choice -- OxyContin, Percocet, Vicodin and Ritalin -- are most often taken from the home or from friends.

Joseph Califano, the president of CASA labels parents as “passive pushers, “ referring to their ignorance of the problem as an open invitation to the medicine chest.

Learn the Facts: 
Don't Be a Passive Pusher

In the Ohio Youth Risk Behavior Survey (2007), 
26.6 percent of high school students in Ohio 
said they have used a prescription drug 
without a prescription.

In fact, 26.6 percent is even a slight dip from 2005, when 28.5 percent of polled students in Ohio said they had done it.

The more troubling numbers emerge 
when one focuses on Ohio high school juniors and seniors. 

Twenty-six percent of juniors said they 
had used a prescription drug in 2003. 
That number jumped to 30.1 percent in 2007. 

Seniors went from 26.9 percent 
to 32.2 percent in the same time frame. 

Why Drug Reform 
Will Save Young Lives 
As It Changes Behavior

Homicide is the second leading cause of death for adolescents and young adults (ages 10-24) according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. From 1991 to 2005, CDC statistics show homicide rates were consistently higher among persons ages 10 to 24 years than among all ages combined. How does drug abuse contribute to youth homicide?

As teens mature (ages 18-34), 
FBI statistics show 71.4 percent of homicide victims 
died in drug-related circumstances 
while 76.9 percent of offenders committed
homicide in drug-related circumstances.

The National Adolescent Health Information Center cites suicide as the third leading cause of death for adolescents and young adults (ages 10-24). This group is some of those at highest risk. The 1999 Ohio Youth Risk Behavior Survey reports that 20 percent of all high school students have thought about killing themselves. Economic downturns, terrorism-related stress, and the inability to effectively problem-solve and cope with these challenges increase risk across the age spectrum.

According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (2007), seventy percent of youth who make a suicide attempt are frequent users of alcohol and/or other drugs.

In addition, over 90 percent of youth who die by suicide had at least one psychiatric illness
at the time of death; in about half such cases, the psychiatric illness was present, although often unrecognized, for two years or more. And, what is included in the most common diagnoses?

The most common diagnoses for psychiatric illness 
among youth are depression, 
substance abuse and conduct disorders.

How Can Ohio Reduce Young Deaths?

According to the groundbreaking 2003 medical report Death by Medicine, by Drs. Gary Null, Carolyn Dean, Martin Feldman, Debora Rasio and Dorothy Smith, the government spends upwards of $30 billion a year on homeland security. Such spending seems important. Since 2001, 2,996 people in the United States have died from terrorism - – all as a result of the 9/11 attacks. In that same period of time, 490,000 people have died from prescription drugs, not counting the Vioxx scandal. (, February 13 2012)

That means that  
prescription drugs  in the U.S.
 are at least 16,400 percent 
deadlier than terrorism.

Again, those are the conservative numbers. A more realistic number, which would include deaths from over-the-counter drugs, makes drug consumption 32,000 percent deadlier than terrorism.

According to a 2010 study by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the Centers for Disease Control, in 2008 prescription painkillers like oxycodone and hydrocodone, the main ingredients in Oxycontin and Vicodin, landed 305,885 Americans in emergency rooms - more than double the 144,644 visits in 2004. 

Joel Saper, founder of the Michigan Headache and Neurological Institute in Ann Arbor, said the rise in drug-related deaths underscored the liberal "unleashed" prescription of opioid painkillers nationwide.

"Pain is not provable. It all comes down to trust," said Saper. "That puts a very high burden on the physician to carefully assess every person he or she feels is in pain. That's just not happening in this country, and now we have a monster."

Final Thoughts

What slays young Ohioans? (1)Traffic accidents, (2) homicides, and (3) suicides are mainly responsible. But, soon prescription drug abuse will overtake these causes and become the number one culprit. It already has taken the lead over traffic accidents when you consider all ages.  And, right now, the future, without significant drug intervention, holds even more chilling prospects for youth.

I didn't even mention the large number of fatal teen crashes that involve the use of alcohol and other drugs. (Crashes increasingly involving rx drugs that can be difficult to detect). Preventing rx drug abuse will effect a drop in these tragedies.

Clearly, youth homicide and suicide have direct links to drug abuse. Repairing the rx drug problem will cause these deaths to drop.

It's time to sever the head from this deadly serpent that poisons our young.

We must first educate ourselves 
and then educate our own youth 
about the real dangers of drug abuse. 

Then, we must insist our learning institution
-- schools, churches, youth organizations -- 
put significant money and talent 
into teaching research-based prevention. 

And then, we must become better role models
and take time to monitor our children 
closely while they age and mature. 

I want you to think of the time, money, and worry you invested in your teen driver. The State of Ohio requires that a person holding a GDL (graduated driver's license) has completed a minimum of 24 hours of classroom instruction and eight hours of behind-the-wheel instruction in driver training. In addition, that person must complete 50 hours of driving with a parent or legal guardian, including at least 10 hours of nighttime driving. And, don't forget about temporary youth restrictions for the driver's hours and the number of passengers in the car.

You put more than the minimum requirements into assuring your child was safe driving that first automobile, didn't you? Even then, you stressed and held your breath each time your teen took the wheel, didn't you? And, you still were pretty sure your prized possession was going to be involved in some kind of accident, weren't you? (Per mile driven, teen drivers ages 16 to 19 are four times more likely than older drivers to crash.)

And, considering the entire Ohio population, after all of the preparedness for operating an auto is legislated, car crashes are still the number one cause of death among ages 16-18. Is the purpose of this entry beginning to sink in? If not, let me be very blunt.

How much time have you put into teaching your young one about deadly drug abuse?

The State of Ohio must improve drug education.
How can it not emphasize the importance of something
as deadly as car crashes and require students to complete
proper prevention instruction?

Let's see - that would be a minimum of 32 hours of formal, 
state-approved learning and 
50 hours of assisted, parental/guardian "in the field" training.

I know we lack enough proper drug education. 

How many parents spend 50 hours 
of close supervision of their teens 
in social situations that present drug abuse risks? 

I know you are saying, "Well, we've talked about it and I've warned my kids about it." Would you have let mere conversations and warnings be the extent of your responsibility to train your child to prevent his/her death in a car crash?

We need to look into the mirror to see the stimulus of change for improved attitudes and better prevention methods concerning drug abuse. Just as a car can be a lethal weapon, so can a pill. I'm telling you now that you are going to have to fight very tough competition to save your child from risking his/her life to drugs. Statistics and experience are shouting this warning like never before. You do not want your own ignorance to endanger your child to the point where chance or luck intervenes.

Lastly, if you think your teen thinks like you because of some home-instilled values, proper discipline, positive peer influences, or religious exposure, I think you are definitely wrong. Of course, all of these things mold good character and help teens thrive. They are sorely needed, even essential. But, do they guarantee your teen views survival as you do?

In other words, are you sure your best intentions will keep your child alive? I have very seldom met a young person who did not like to take a few risks and flirt with some too lightly considered means of disaster. When I was a teen, I took dumb risks, did you? I had great influences at home, at school, and in the community, and I still had to wander a little too close to the edge... many times.

Let's vow to increase prevention 
through proper drug education. 
Together, we can save lives 
and better a generation. 

What resources are needed? 

Time, money, 
the desire to learn 
and to initiate change, 
and lots of love 
(both tough and unconditional).

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