Prescription Pills As a Gateway Drug
Forbes recently published an article where the headline was: More Than 75 Percent of High School Heroin Users Started With Prescription Opioids.
It's a headline that makes you stop in your tracks.
These aren't kids who are grabbing back alley drugs. They are kids who were given prescriptions for pain, injuries, etc - or stumbled upon a bottle of doctor-prescribed drugs in their parents' medicine cabinet and when they prescription ran out and the addiction kept going, they turned to heroin.
If it's statistics you need to back up the facts: "'There were 16,235 deaths involving prescription opioids in the country in 2013, an increase of 303 percent from 1999,' according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). There were 8,257 heroin-related deaths in 2013, up 39 percent from 2012," the article says.
So how is addiction to these drugs claiming our children?
"Teens are commonly taught that marijuana is as dangerous as heroin and then when they're exposed to marijuana they may develop a distrust regarding all other drug information," Dr. Joseph J. Palamar, an affiliate of the Center for Drug Use and HIV Research (CDUHR) and an assistant professor of Population Health at NYU Langone Medical Center (NYULMC), tells Forbes. "Teens are generally only taught how drugs are bad and there is little focus on why some people use."
But, he points out, "Opioids are an even more complicated situation because most other drugs are illegal in all contexts, yet opioids - the most dangerous drugs, are prescribed by doctors and are often sitting there in parents' medicine cabinets. If teens don't believe warnings about street drugs then why would they be afraid to use government-approved, pharmaceutical-grade pills?"
It's a question that needs to be considered.
In Oregon measures are being taken to keep those pills out of the hands of students and their parents' medicine cabinets by limiting the number of unnecessary prescriptions out there. At a recent conference health officials and local hospitals "announced they have new guidelines for prescribing opiates for non-terminal pain, with the goal of changing the epidemic of prescription overdoses," KATU reports.
Tri-County Health Officer Dr. Paul Lewis, who was among the speakers at the conference says, "Chronic pain needs treatment, but high doses of opiates are not the answer."
So what is the answer? For Oregon, more efforts are being taken to push physical therapy and to set up more multidisciplinary pain clinics. It's a move toward safer, more effective treatments for those with chronic pain.
Limited availability means limited access, which means limiting the number of people who could potentially become addicted to painkillers as a sad and unexpected side effect. And that is a way to reverse Forbes' tragic headline.
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