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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A Prescription For a New Attitude



Most of us adults take prescription medications daily for very good reasons. Especially as we age, we encounter health problems that require maintenance, and part of our ongoing regimen becomes taking prescriptions. Personally, I hate taking pills, but it seems the older I get, the more pills doctors prescribe to insure the relatively good health of my deteriorating body. As long as we follow the doctors orders and take the correct dosage of these medicines, the remedies help us live more comfortable, happy lives.

Today I want to talk about an attitude concerning prescriptions that adults have passed onto the younger generation. As grownups, we take our medications to help us heal and cope with our ailments; however, in doing this in a casual, offhand manner, our familiarity with and our dependence on prescription drugs confirms to youth that consuming rx drugs is all right.

This view is a very dangerous perception for young people who are now at great risk for dependency, addiction, and overdose. Mixing cocktails of drugs and alcohol (Drinking is also "no big deal" to most teens.), immature youth expose themselves to potentially lethal circumstances. Why, in part, do smart, attractive teenagers do this? This is the hard, sobering reality: Just look into the mirror.

We all -- not just the young -- we ALL need to change our attitude toward prescription drugs. To the dismay of many, we must treat potentially dangerous prescriptions in the same manner we treat guns because both of these household possessions represent the means of delivery for destruction.

We understand that carelessness and guns don't mix, especially around children . In 2009, there were 642 accidental deaths that resulted from accidental shooting. About two-thirds of accidental shooting deaths happen in the home, with the child shooting himself to death in 45 percent of the cases and friends or family members pulling the trigger in the remainder. (Ryn Gargulinski,"Top 5 Causes of Accidental Death in the United States,"listosaur.com, July 22 2011)

More than 50 percent of American households have a gun in the house, and, in one survey of evidently careless families, 10 percent said they had loaded firearms in unlocked locations that were easily accessible to kids. There is obviously a need to keep guns in locked, inaccessible and child-resistant locations and store them unloaded. Gun safety is still a major problem in America and a much-needed concern for all parents who possess firearms.

Let's compare gun risk with prescription drug risk. By 2004, opioid painkiller deaths numbered more than the total of deaths involving heroin and cocaine. Now, about 120,000 Americans a year go to the emergency room after overdosing on opioid painkillers. The number of overdose deaths from opioid painkillers — opium-like drugs that include morphine and codeine — more than tripled from 1999 to 2006, to 13,800 deaths that year, according to Center of Disease Control statistics. (Liz Scabo, "Prescriptions Now Biggest Cause of Fatal Drug Overdoses," USA Today, August 10,2010)

Many health experts believe that number of rx drug deaths is grossly under reported. Many, many of these opioid deaths were teenagers.

In the past 10 years the rate of prescription drug abuse among teens has risen steadily. Nearly one in five — 4.5 million — admits to abusing medications not prescribed to him or her, reported the 2005 Partnership Attitude Tracking Study conducted by the Partnership for a Drug-Free America.

Accidental-poisoning deaths among youths ages 15 to 24 increased 113 percent between 1999 and 2004, mostly due to prescription- and illegal-drug abuse, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

And what about teen attitude toward prescription drugs? By survey, almost 50% of teens believe that prescription drugs are much safer than illegal street drugs. What's more, nearly three out of 10 teens think these drugs are not addictive, according to the Partnership study. Kids trust prescription drugs because they're mass-produced, FDA-approved, familiar medicines. Even the nicknames teens give them — "jif," "Z-bar," "cotton" — suggest childhood treats and comfort food.
60% to 70% say that home medicine cabinets are their source of drugs. 57% of teens say they can get prescription drugs for free from a relative or a friend, and take them without asking. Data show that girls are more likely than boys to abuse prescription drugs. (Matt Lombardi, "Raising Awareness of 'Generation Rx," Couric and Company - CBS News, November 29 2011)

Sara Swanson, who grew up in suburban St. Paul, MN, the daughter of two recovering alcoholics. "My parents always warned me about alcohol abuse," explains Swanson, "but my mom had back problems and never dreamed I'd take her muscle relaxants." Swanson moved on from her mother's pills to other drugs, trading cigarettes to her friends for their Adderall. "I loved the pills, and they were so easy to get," she says. "I'd look at the recommended dose and then double it."



Why do teens, themselves, overwhelmingly report they experiment with drugs and expose themselves to all kinds of terrible hazards?

Teens say,
"It's (using prescription drugs) is no big deal."
Can we understand why?
 I think so.

Research indicates that using drugs can make youth feel more independent and grown-up. Teens who take alcohol or any kind of illegal drugs report feeling older than their real age, found a 2007 study from the University of Alberta in Edmonton. "One explanation: Kids are using drugs because they think of drug-taking as an adult behavior," says Kelly Arbeau, Ph.D., coauthor of the study. (Annemarie Conte, "Prescription Pills: The New Drug of Choice for Teens," MSN Lifestyle, 2012)

Adults think of prescription drugs purely as medicine, but young people have come up with ways to create effects similar to what they'd experience from street dope - from crushing pills to circumvent timed-release controls to doubling or tripling dosages or simply downing handfuls.

What teens actually do this? We should adapt our view of users and addicts. These teens are not the "stoners" of old or the "creeps" on the street. These days bright, motivated high achievers can be lured by prescription drugs. Some common threads do exist among users: Many of them have self-esteem issues. They start using the pills as a way of self-medicating for school or family problems and underlying depression and anxiety. But, "No big deal." Right?

In the past 10 years the rate of prescription drug abuse among teens has risen steadily. Nearly one in five -- 4.5 million -- admits to abusing medications not prescribed to him or her, reported the 2005 Partnership Attitude Tracking Study conducted by the Partnership for a Drug-Free America.

"I don't think it's bad. There's no particular reason I didn't do [prescription drugs]," says one recent New Jersey high school graduate. "It's not any worse than drinking or smoking pot. Yes, it's illegal, but taking pills doesn't make you a bad person by any means." The Partnership study found nearly one-third of teens (7.3 million) agree that there's "nothing wrong" with using prescription drugs without a prescription once in a while.

Pill popping has become so accepted as part of the weed-and-alcohol culture of high school parties, but now teens take them throughout the day as a routine part of life.

"School was really stressful, so kids would pop pills or snort Adderall during class to make it go faster," explains Anders Torgersen, 17, of Huntington Beach, California. Torgersen asserts that when he was an athlete and top student at a strict private middle school, pressure to excel led him to start taking prescription drugs. "I loved Vicodin because it made me feel like God," he says. "If I punched a wall, I couldn't feel it. I had more power and confidence on the pills." He began dealing the meds in his freshman year of high school. He estimates that 70 percent of his schoolmates used drugs." (Annemarie Conte, "Prescription Pills: The New Drug of Choice for Teens," MSN Lifestyle, 2012)

What Should We All Do?

We must change the attitude toward
taking prescription drugs from
 "It's no big deal"
to
"Rx drugs present 
a potential deadly health hazard.
Use only as directed by YOUR doctor."

That change in attitude must  be complete -- it must be done by young and old. Drug education must involve teaching the family that a pill can be deadlier than a bullet in a gun, and anyone taking the risks of prescription drug experimentation is playing Russian roulette with his/her life.

What Youth Is Taking

(Annemarie Conte, "Prescription Pills: The New Drug of Choice for Teens," MSN Lifestyle, 2012)
Depressant : Xanax

  • Nicknames: Z-bar, bricks, Benzos
  • Generic: alprazolam
  • Legitimate uses: Treats anxiety and sleeplessness; is an anticonvulsant
  • Kids take: Orally, or occasionally by crushing and snorting
  • Effects: Wooziness, floating feelings, mind-and-body numbness

Depressant: Valium

  • Nickname: blues
  • Generic: diazepam
  • Legitimate uses: Treats anxiety and sleeplessness; is an anticonvulsant
  • Kids take: Orally, or occasionally by crushing and snorting
  • Effects: Euphoria and sleepiness

Stimulants:Ritalin, Concerta

  • Nicknames: Rid, vitamin R, jif, R-ball, Ritty, Rits
  • Generic: methylphenidate
  • Legitimate use: Treats attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children and adults
  • Kids take: Orally, or by crushing and snorting
  • Effects: Intense feeling of energy and increased concentration
Stimulant: Adderall

  • Nicknames: beans, black beauties, Christmas trees, double trouble
  • Generic: amphetamine and dextroamphetamine
  • Legitimate use: Treats ADHD
  • Kids take: Orally; crushing/snorting
  • Effects: Intense feeling of energy and increased concentration

Painkillers:Vicodin, Vicoprofen, Tussionex, Lortab, Norco

  • Nicknames: Vike, Watson-387, Tuss
  • Generic: hydrocodone
  • Legitimate use: Treats pain
  • Kids take: Orally; crushing/snorting
  • Effect: Intense euphoria

Painkillers: OxyContin, Percodan, Percocet

  • Nicknames: OC, cotton, Percs
  • Generic: oxycodone
  • Legitimate use: Treats pain
  • Kids take: Orally; crushing/snorting
  • Effect: Intense euphoria

Painkillers: Avinza, Kadian, MS Contin, MSIR, Oramorph SR, Rescudose, Roxanol

  • Nickname: Morph
  • Generic: morphine
  • Legitimate use: Treats pain
  • Kids take: Orally; crushing/snorting
  • Effects: Euphoria and hallucinations
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