Drugging Our Kids
A report from Reuters Health shows an alarming statistic -- a doubling of the percentage of young people who are getting prescribed long-term drugs. The numbers have gone up from six to eleven percent between 1994 and 2007. And these aren't just random prescriptions for acne or other chronic problems, these are drugs of abuse -- Ritalin and addictive pain medications.
A symptom of our times? Are we really living in a society where the answer to a problem is another pill? Could it be better access to medical care or more demand because pharmaceutical companies are advertising? None of these seem like the obvious answer.
We do know that this age group uses prescription drugs for non-medical purposes. As stated in the article: ” The findings are concerning, the authors note, because teenagers and young adults are more likely than any other group to abuse prescription medicines. Indeed, nearly one in eight teenagers and one in three adults in their 20s say they have used prescription drugs recreationally at some point in their lifetimes.”
We also know that young people view prescription drugs as somehow ‘safer’ and less addicting than ‘street drugs’. Maybe we’ve done too good a job exposing the dangers of meth, cocaine and heroin while ignoring the addiction potential of pharmaceuticals. Make no mistake; Oxycodone is as much a derivative of opium as heroin is, except the latter comes in a nice pill.
Physicians are the gatekeepers here. We rely on them to determine if a drug is warranted. But the system is imperfect. Somehow, even with the oversight and regulations we have in place, these drugs are making it into the addict supply chain. Left over medication is not always thrown away. They get sold or stolen and end up supporting someone’s habit. One suggestion is to limit quantities and increase parental supervision – good ideas. Along with these measures, it might be time to expose our youth to the same sort of facts we used to reduce street drug use in teens – education does seem to work to some degree.