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Saturday, February 2, 2013

Relatives and Friends Poison Adolescents With Rx Painkillers

Among U.S. adolescents,
misuse of prescription painkillers peaks at age 16,
earlier than thought,
a new large survey analysis reveals.
"What our findings suggest is that if we wait until the last year of high school or college to take some kind of action that could prevent the misuse of opioid painkillers, it'll be a case of too little, too late," cautioned study co-author James Anthony, a professor of epidemiology and biostatistics in the department of epidemiology and biostatistics at Michigan State University in East Lansing.

Many experts consider "extramedical" painkiller abuse -- taking pain drugs such as OxyContin (oxycodone) and Vicodin (hydrocodone) to get high rather than to relieve extreme pain -- the country's most serious drug challenge. Some kids had already misused these drugs by age 13 or 14, or eighth grade, the researchers found.

(Alan Mozes, "Kids Most Likely to Start Abusing Painkillers at 16," U.S. News, May 7 2012)

Anthony's work was co-funded by the university and the U.S. National Institute on Drug Abuse and printed in the online edition of the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.

The authors warned that their findings highlight a weakness in public health strategies that take sole aim at college-age drug abusers, given that the roots of the problem seem firmly planted among younger students.

Dr. Marc Galanter, director of the division of alcoholism and substance abuse within the psychiatry department at New York University Langone Medical Center in New York City, agreed that the current analysis "correctly points to the need for prevention and early intervention."

What Can Parents Do?

American parents must address this critical question. Until parents commit to educating themselves about the epidemic of prescription drug abuse, adolescent dependence and addiction is expected to continue to spiral to ever greater heights. It is now imperative that parents learn about rx addiction and assume new roles as providers of drug education. They must not rely solely upon schools to provide their children with comprehensive information about drug abuse.

Besides thinking about locking up their medicines,
parents should maintain open lines of communication with their children
and pay attention to what's going on in their lives.

"What are they doing that's engaging them, rewarding them, and are those activities socially adaptive?" Anthony said. "Because when you begin to see these activities -- swimming, playing baseball, watching movies, video-gaming, whatever -- start to narrow and mood problems set in, that's the time to pay a little more attention and stay engaged."

Idle in the Good Old Summertime

Did you know a 2012 survey found that teens are much more likely to try alcohol, cigarettes, and most other drugs for the first time during the summer months?
Researchers found first-time use of these substances, as well as marijuana and hallucinogens, peaks during June and July, with thousands more youths trying them each day compared to other months.

For example, on an average day in June or July, more than 11,000 teens aged 12 to 17 try alcohol for the first time, compared with averages of about 5,000-8,000 first-time users in most other months. December was the only other month with a similar peak in first-time alcohol use.

"More free time and less adult supervision can make the summertime an exciting time for many young people, but it can also increase the likelihood of exposure to the dangers of substance abuse," Pamela S. Hyde, administrator of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), which conducted the study, says in a news release.

For example, on an average day in June or July:
  • More than 5,000 youths smoked cigarettes for the first time, compared with averages of about 3,000 to 4,000 new users in other months.
  • More than 4,800 youths smoked marijuana for the first time, compared with a daily average of about 3,000 to 4,000 in other months.
  • More than 1,500 youths used hallucinogens for the first time, compared with averages of about 1,100 to 1,400 per day in other months.

First-time use of inhalants also peaked in July, with more than 1,800 new users on average per day, compared with about 1,100 to 1,700 new users each day in other months.

Researchers found youths were most likely to try alcohol for the first time in July, with 11,598 new users, followed by December (11,432) and June (11,123), compared with monthly averages around 5,000 to 8,000 in other months.

(Jennifer Warner, "First-Time Teen Alcohol, Drug Use Peaks in Summer,"
WebMD, July 3 2012)

But, the only substances that did not have higher rates
of first-time users during the summer months
were cocaine and prescription pain drugs
used for non-medical reasons.

 (Click to enlarge)

How Could This Be?

How could it be that first-time use of cocaine and prescription pain drugs by teens were found not to increase in summer when first-time use of all other drugs increased with their idle time? This finding dumbfounded me. I dug into some research for a possible answer.

I know that cocaine is most commonly used by adults. Even in the 1980s and the high times of cocaine, most cocaine users were at least 18 years of age. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) in 2009, adults aged 18 to 25 years had a higher rate of current cocaine use than any other age group, with 1.5 percent of young adults reporting past month cocaine use.

As far as youth substance use, positive trends in the past several years include reduced use of inhalants and less use of cocaine.

According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) and the 2009 "Monitoring the Future Survey" -- a national survey of 8th-, 10th-, and 12th-graders -- there were continuing declines reported in the use of powder cocaine, with past-year usage levels (at least once during the year preceding an individual’s response to the survey) reaching their lowest point since the early 1990s.

NIDA reported significant declines in cocaine use were measured from 2008 to 2009 among 12th-graders across all three survey categories: lifetime use decreased from 7.2 percent to 6.0 percent; past-year use dropped from 4.4 percent to 3.4 percent; and past-month use dropped from 1.9 percent to 1.3 percent.

Survey measures also showed other positive findings among 12th-graders as well; their perceived risk of harm associated with powder cocaine use increased significantly during the same period.

Additionally, survey participants in the 10th grade reported significant changes, with cocaine past-month use falling from 1.2 percent in 2008 to 0.9 percent in 2009.

I'm assuming these figures indicating general decline explain, at least in part, the reason for the first-time use of cocaine by teens to drop even in the idle days of summer. But why didn't first-time use of prescription drugs significantly rise during the same time?

The Main Reason?

Teens deaths related to prescription drug abuse is skyrocketing. Unlike cocaine, prescription drugs are being misused more than ever. Nonmedical use of prescription and over-the-counter medicines is the most significant part of the teen drug problem.

 * 16 million Americans age 12 and older had taken a prescription pain reliever, tranquilizer, stimulant, or sedative for nonmedical purposes at least once in the year prior to being surveyed

(National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 2009)

* 2.7% of 8th graders and 7.7% of 10th graders had abused Vicodin and 2.1% of 8th graders and 4.6% of 10th graders had abused OxyContin for nonmedical purposes at least once in the year prior to being surveyed.

(Monitoring the Future NIDA-funded Study, 2010)

* 14.8 percent of high-school seniors used a prescription drug nonmedically in the past year

(Monitoring the Future, NIDA-funded Study, 2012)

Parents, these drugs are deadly. Consider that in April of 2012, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stated that the number of children dying from poisoning had risen by 91% in only ten years, from 2000 to 2009.

And, the reason given by the CDC for the dramatic increase
is the growing epidemic of prescription drug abuse,
now affecting millions of teenagers.

These drugs are highly addictive and very dangerous as indicated by the fact that every year nearly 15,000 people die from overdoses involving these drugs -- more than those who die from heroin and cocaine overdoses combined.

One statistic that is particularly troubling is that daily, 2,500 American teens ages 12 to 17 are abusing a pain relieving drug for the first time.

In fact, prescription pills are now the second most-abused drugs after marijuana.
The classes of prescription drugs most commonly abused are:

* Opioid pain relievers, such as Vicodin or Oxycontin s

* Stimulants for treating Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), such as Adderall, Concerta, or Ritalin

* Central nervous system (CNS) depressants for relieving anxiety, such as Valium or Xanax.

* The most commonly abused OTC drugs are cough and cold remedies containing dextromethorphan.

My Answer

I believe the reasons researchers found that prescription pain drugs didn't have higher rates of first-time teen users in the idle summer months than during the rest of the year was evident in two facts: (1) the rate of first-time use is steady and high during the entire year -- teens are experimenting with these substances all the time, and (2) most importantly, the source of the drugs is less dependent upon outside influences than other abused substances.

Parents read this and consider the need for your vigilance and quick intervention:

The source for most of these prescription drugs is the family’s own medicine cabinet or that of a friend.

Most teenagers who abuse prescription drugs are given them for free by a friend or by a relative.

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