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New drugs of choice for youths are found in the medicine cabinet

By Staff | Sep 20, 2008


According to a report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, abuse of cocaine and methamphetamine is down among America’s youth, which would have been good news to supporters of the “War on Drugs” if abuse of prescription drugs hadn’t simultaneously increased.

The 2007 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, the nation’s largest drug abuse report, stated that cocaine use dropped 23 percent and meth use dropped by one-third in young adults aged 18 to 25.

For adolescents aged 12 to 17 there was a decline in overall drug use, the report stated. From 2002 to 2007 drug use for adolescents dropped from 11.6 to 9.5 percent.

Most ages experienced a decrease in drug abuse rates except for older adults ranging in age from 50 to 55 where incidences increased.

While illegal drug use has fallen, the number of young adults abusing prescription drugs, specifically pain relievers, has increased by 12 percent. In many instances these drugs are easier to obtain — in the parent’s medicine cabinet or given out by other teenagers. They also eliminate the middle man or drug dealer.

When it comes to prescription drugs, we can’t afford to re-live the painful experiences we’ve had with illegal drugs,” said John Walters, director of National Drug Control Policy. “We must act quickly to increase awareness of the dangers of prescription drug abuse, decrease the illegal diversion of these products, and shore up safer practices for their prescription and distribution.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse reported that 16.2 million Americans had used prescription medicine for non-medical reasons at least once in 2006.

Those prescription drugs commonly used for non-medical reasons include depressants such as Valium, narcotics such as OxyContin, or anabolic steroids such as Anadrol.

Young adults could be choosing prescription drugs because they produce physiological effects similar to illegal drugs, but are prescribed and won’t result in an altercation with law enforcement.

According to experts with Teen

Drug Abuse — an organization distributing information on drug addictions — abusing prescription painkillers can have the same effects as taking heroin because both substances contain opiates.

Even more precarious is that prescription drug abusers aren’t aware whether they are allergic to a specific drug or of the deadliness of a drug when mixed with alcohol and other substances.

Experts also point out that many drugs look a like and it could be deadly for someone to go “
pharming,” or taking a random handful of pills.

Some adolescents and adults become addicted by accident. If a patient with chronic pain is prescribed Vicodin, for example, their body may grow a tolerance to the medication and require more and more doses to accomplish the same effect on the body.

Keral Kronseder Vogt, director of the Lee County Coalition for a Drug Free Southwest Florida, said that the national trends outlined in SAMHSA’s report can be applied to Southwest Florida.

We are seeing that same thing down here. You can apply those national statistics to us and it seems that people are under the misconception that abusing prescription medication is safer than using street drugs but in fact they are just as addictive and just as deadly,” said Vogt.

Drug abuse among young adults and adolescents have gone in phases, she explained. Decades earlier it was all street drugs like marijuana or cocaine and more recently it evolved to club drugs such as Ecstasy.

This is the phase we are in now. We could see prescription drugs on the horizon,” said Vogt.

Often drug addiction is interconnected with mental health problems.

The VCU Medical Center in Virginia is one of three evidence based clinics in the United States dealing with children aged 12 to 17 who have co-occurring disorders. The center reported that half of teens with mental health problems have a substance abuse problem.

As a corollary, local organizations such as Southwest Florida Addiction Services and Lee Mental Health not only offer drug detoxification and treatment, but supplement the treatment with mental health counseling.

The statistics:

n Among young adults ages 18 to

25, non-medical use of

prescription pain relievers has

risen 12 percent.

n Cocaine use among 18 to 25

year-olds dropped 23 percent,

while methamphetamine use

among young adults fell by a

third between 2006 and 2007.

n For adolescents between the ages

of 12 to 17, there was a decline in

overall past month illicit drug use,

from 11.6 percent in 2002 to

9.5 percent in 2007. Current

marijuana use among this age

group declined from 8.2 percent in

2002 to 6.7 percent in 2007.

n The level of alcohol use also

dropped among those aged 12 to

17, from 17.6 percent in 2002 to

15.9 percent in 2007. And,

cigarette use among this same

age group decreased from

13.0 percent in 2002 to

9.8 percent in 2007.

Source: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

At a Glance

Ten tips for parents to intervene if their child is abusing prescription drugs:

– Parents should first talk privately with each other to get on the same page about how they are going to address their child.

– You should find a time to hold a conversation with your child when he or she is not high or drunk, and when they are not extremely upset or angry.

– You should initially express love and concern for your child’s safety and well-being as the basis for the concern, whether the child acknowledges this or not.

– You should point out that, while it is the child’s responsibility to grow up, it is your job as parents to make sure he or she reaches adulthood as safely as possible.

– You should tell your child the warning signs you’ve observed in his or her behavior that have made you concerned, and say that this problem warrants serious attention and family support, as well as professional help, because it can get out of control and can even be fatal.

– You should then listen to anything and everything the child has to say in response.

– Then you should follow the practice of “
motivational interviewing” used by clinicians, to empower your child and get them to think about their substance use in a new way. Ask questions about what the child wants his or her life to be like at this stage.

– The listening step is crucial, to establish empathy and to convey that you really see and hear your child, and are taking them in.

– Ask the child to reassess the problem. Set a goal for getting well. Plan together some concrete next steps to find information about addiction, recovery and resources, and identify professional help that will be most suitable.

– You and your child should understand that the conversation you just had is actually a successful “
intervention,” a first concrete step toward interrupting the progression of the problem and getting well.

Source: Partnership for a Drug Free America