Several weeks ago, 23 students at Texas Christian University in Ft. Worth Texas were busted for drug use and solicitation. The newspaper and TV shows have been covering this story with great detail. While making my morning coffee, a recent update stopped me dead in my tracks.
I had just been talking with several parents, as well as adolescent patients, about the escalating use of prescription drugs in our community, especially among high school students, and TCU is in our “backyard”.
This is another “wake up” call! While teens and college students across the country may not be using as many illicit drugs, their new “drugs of choice” are prescription drugs. They deem these drugs to be legal, “safer” as well as easier to obtain. This is alarming on so many different fronts.
A CDC report in 2009 found that 20% of teens had admitted to having taken a prescription medication, without a prescription.
In 2010 the Monitoring the Future survey found that prescription drugs were the most commonly used drugs after alcohol, marijuana and tobacco. Lastly, another study among adolescents reported that 7.7% of 12-17 year olds reported misuse of prescription drugs! Teens unfortunately believe that prescription drugs are “safer” to use than illicit drugs. Unfortunately, they are dead wrong.
Looking at another recent headline, the reality of prescription drug abuse continues. Whitney Houston’s untimely death looks to be most likely secondary to some mixture of prescription drugs.
The story of Demi Moore’s seizure and hospitalization has rumors swirling of prescription drug abuse (along with “something” else).
The most commonly abused prescription drugs fall into several categories which include: painkillers (Vicodan, Percocet, oxycontin), stimulants (used for ADHD such as Adderall, Ritalin), or depressants (used for anxiety and sleep, such as xanax, valium, klonopin). While all of these classes of drugs are safe when used appropriately, when taken illegally and in combination, the side effects can kill you. Mix any of these with alcohol, as so many teens and young adults are doing, and you may have respiratory depression and then your heart can stop! A quiet death.
I hear reports of teens taking pills which were typically obtained from a “friend’s” parents medicine cabinet. Several students in my area have been hospitalized due to the combination of prescription drugs and alcohol. It is amazing to me how many households have many of the drugs mentioned above just hanging around in their medicine cabinets.
I have also seen college students who have come home due to a viral illness, such as mono, and they have come in to see me for follow up. They have brought along narcotics that the student health center had given them for their painful sore throat, or pills to help them sleep while they are sick. Unbelievably there were a lot of pills prescribed for a fairly short illness and several bottles even had refills!! What are doctors thinking?
Parents need to LOCK up medications just like the liquor cabinet. When teens come to hang out and they used to “steal” beer from the refrigerator, they are now heading to bathrooms to pocket a bottle of Xanax from a parental medicine cabinet. Scary stuff.
Talk to your tweens/teens/young adults about the risks surrounding the use of prescription medications when they have not been prescribed. Discuss alcohol and drugs in combination. Show them the headlines in the news. The problem is real.
That’s your daily dose for today. We’ll chat again tomorrow.