We are currently in a prescription pill epidemic.
More than 7 million Americans reported current use of prescription drugs for non-medical purposes in 2010 while the reported number of fatal drug overdoses has almost doubled since 1999 with the majority being due to prescription pills. It’s rampant in our news, media, and seems to follow us everywhere we go.
Celebrities are one of the most idolized groups of people by young adults, making their actions a strong predictor of behavior we should expect to see in today’s youth. Nearly 1 in 12 high school seniors reported non-medical use of Vicodin; 1 in 20 reported abuse of OxyContin. When asked how prescription narcotics were obtained for non-medical use, 70% of 12th graders said they were given to them by a friend or relative (MTF 2011).
With statistics like these, it seems like we will need to have a serious talk with our children about the dangers of medications.
There are three key factors that are driving the abuse of prescription drugs in children.
1. Misperceptions about their safety. Because these medications are prescribed by doctors, many assume that they are safe to take under any circumstances. This is not the case. Prescription drugs act directly or indirectly on the same brain systems affected by illicit drugs. Using a medication other than as prescribed can potentially lead to a variety of adverse health effects, including overdose and addiction.
Now a days, teens are partying using potluck-style drug exchange. Everyone brings prescription pills from their home medicine cabinet, put it in a bowl and then everyone draws a pill, not knowing what it is, what it does or what it was intended for.
2. Increasing environmental availability. Between 1991 and 2010, prescriptions for stimulants increased from 5 million to nearly 45 million and for opioids from about 75.5 million to 209.5 million. This is an incredible jump which should be taken very seriously.
3. Varied motivations for their abuse. Underlying reasons include: to get high; to counter anxiety, pain, or sleep problems; or to enhance cognition. Whatever the motivation, prescription drug abuse comes with serious risks including death.
Lets all make an effort to help those around us and make sure that we can begin to curb prescription drug abuse epidemic.