“There is a tremendous amount of medicines out there that are readily available in the bathrooms, in the cabinets at home as well as on the black market.”
– Steven Jaffe, M.D., adolescent psychiatrist
Many kids say they can get any prescription drug they might want. Joseph Caspar, 17, says he could get “vicodin, morphine, anything like that.” Patti Strickland says she could even get methadone.
According to the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, 61 percent of teens say prescription drugs are easier to get than any other drug.
One reason … easy accessibility.
“This is the age of medication,” explains Dr. Steven Jaffe, adolescent psychiatrist. “I think there is a tremendous amount of all sorts of medicines out there that are readily available in the bathrooms, in the cabinets at home as well as on the black market.”
In fact, kids say the medicine cabinet is the first place they look. “That’s mostly how it starts,” says 16-year-old T.J. Crutain.
That’s why, experts say, prescription medicine needs to be locked up.
“We have gun cabinets that are locked up to keep guns away from our teenagers,” says Dr. Herb Kleber, professor of psychiatry at Columbia University. “We should also develop locked medicine cabinets in order to help secure these agents so that it isn’t easy for teenagers to get to them.”
Carol Thomas recently lost her son, Ross, when he overdosed on prescription drugs. Ross was 16-years-old.
“Ross didn’t get anything from [our] medicine cabinet, but I know parents have it and there’s nothing wrong with that,” says Thomas. “If you need medication, you need medication. But I think that we’re silly to walk around and dangle a carrot in front of a kid’s face.”
Tips for Parents
OxyContin is a controlled-release pain reliever that can drive away pain for up to 12 hours when used properly. When used improperly, however, OxyContin is a highly addictive opioid closely related to morphine. As individuals abuse the drug, the effects lessen over time, leading to higher dosage use.
Consider the following:
The supply of OxyContin is soaring. Sales of OxyContin, first marketed in 1996, hit $1.2 billion in 2003.
The FDA reports that OxyContin may have played a role in 464 deaths across the country in 2000 to 2001.
In 2000, 43 percent of those who ended up in hospital emergency rooms from drug overdoses – nearly 500,000 people – were there because of misusing or abusing prescription drugs.
In seven cities in 2000 (Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Seattle, and Washington, D.C.) 626 people died from overdose of painkillers and tranquilizers. By 2001, such deaths had increased in Miami and Chicago by 20 percent.
From 1998 to 2000, the number of people entering an emergency room because of misusing or abusing oxycodone (OxyContin) rose 108 percent. The rates are intensifying … from mid-2000 to mid-2001, oxycodone went up in emergency room visits 44 percent.
OxyContin is typically abused in one of three ways …
By removing the outer coating and chewing the tablet.
By dissolving the tablet in water and injecting the fluid intravenously.
By crushing the tablet and snorting the powder.
Because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration puts its seal of approval on prescription drugs, many teens mistakenly believe that using these drugs – even if they are not prescribed to them – is safe. However, this practice can, in fact, lead to addiction and severe side effects. How can you determine if your teen is abusing drugs?
Physical: Fatigue, repeated health complaints, red and glazed eyes and a lasting cough
Emotional: Personality change, sudden mood changes, irritability, irresponsible behavior, low self-esteem, poor judgment, depression and a general lack of interest
Familial: Starting arguments, breaking rules or withdrawing from the family
School-related: Decreased interest, negative attitude, drop in grades, many absences, truancy and discipline problems
Social: having new friends who are less interested in standard home and school activities, problems with the law, and changes to less conventional styles in dress and music
If you believe your teen has a problem with drug abuse, you can take several steps to get the help he or she needs.
Substance abuse can be an overwhelming issue with which to deal, but it doesn’t have to be. The Partnership for a Drug-Free America offers the following strategies to put into practice so that your teen can reap the rewards of a healthy, drug-free life:
Be your teen’s greatest fan. Compliment him or her on all of his or her efforts, strength of character and individuality.
Encourage your teen to get involved in adult-supervised after-school activities. Ask him or her what types of activities he or she is interested in and contact the school principal or guidance counselor to find out what activities are available.
Help your teen develop tools he can use to get out of drug-related situations. Let him or her know he or she can use you as an excuse: “My mom would kill me if I smoked marijuana!”
Get to know your teen’s friends and their parents. Set appointments for yourself to call them and check-in to make sure they share your views on alcohol, tobacco and other drugs. Steer your teen away from any friends who use drugs.
Call teens’ parents if their home is to be used for a party. Make sure that the party will be drug-free and supervised by adults.
Set curfews and enforce them. Let your teen know the consequences of breaking curfew.
Set a no-use rule for alcohol, tobacco and other drugs.
Sit down for dinner with your teen at least once a week. Use the time to talk – don’t eat in front of the television.
Get – and stay – involved in your teen’s life.