Our nation’s Top Doctor sent a letter to every doctor in the United States in August 2016 asking for their help to solve, “The most urgent health crisis facing America: the opiod epidemic”. Abuse of prescription drugs can be even riskier than the abuse of illegally manufactured drugs. Synthetic (man-made) drugs are often more potent and create a higher overdose risk. This is particularly true of OxyContin and similar painkillers, where overdose deaths more than doubled over a five-year period.
How Does Prescription Drug Abuse Start?
The most common types of prescription drugs that are abused by young people include the following:
- Stimulants, such as Ritalin, Dexedrine and Concerta, that are prescribed for ADHD and asthma
- Painkillers, such as OxyContin, Codeine, and Vicodin that are prescribed for temporary or chronic pain
- Depressants, such as Soma, Xanax and Valium, that are prescribed for anxiety and sleeping disorders
What Happens When The Supply Runs Out?
These products are often prescribed by physicians to treat specific conditions for a temporary period of time. Abuse occurs when the patient goes beyond the intent. The products can be highly addictive and the user craves more. Teens learn from uninformed peers that these prescription products “get you high” and curiosity takes over. Eventually the supply will run out. In most cases (94% surveyed in 20141), those addicted turned to the streets for a less expensive alternative like heroin. The volume of adolescents (12 to 17 years old) addicted to prescription drugs and heroin these days is staggering and our community should be very concerned. In 2015 alone, over 276,000 adolescents were users of pain relievers not originally prescribe for them, with 122,000 having an addiction to prescription pain relievers per the Center for Behavioral Health and Statistics.
Video: Where The Problem Often Starts
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Prevention Starts With You – Talk With Our Kids
Most adolescence these days have experienced a classmate or someone they know that has been negatively affected by drug abuse. We recommend you have those uncomfortable discussions with the youth in your sphere of influence. Provide them with the facts that allow them to make informed decisions on their own. Here is a couple staggering facts. The Bucks County Coroner’s office announced there was 168 deaths due to accidental drug overdoses in 2016 (up 88% over 2012) and 900 fatal drug overdoses occurred in Philadelphia.
Let’s make sure we are telling our youth these truths and invite them to talk openly about the topic. We recommend you clean out your medicine cabinets and use a local drop box to dispose of these unused medications. Let’s keep this conversation going by sharing this post on Facebook, Twitter, everywhere you can.
For more timely information, our friends over at The Bucks County Courier Times have a section called Heroin Talk
1 Cicero TJ, Ellis MS, Surratt HL, Kurtz SP. The changing face of heroin use in the United States: a retrospective analysis of the past 50 years. JAMA Psychiatry. 2014;71(7):821-826.