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Recovery

Know Your Facts: The Increase in Prescription Drug Abuse

Virginia Guard Counterdrug disposes of tons of...

(part 2 of 3)

Monitoring the Future released their latest study, noting that alcohol use was down, but marijuana, synthetic marijuana, and prescription drugs were up. In part one of this series, we focused on marijuana and its synthetic counterparts, bringing attention to the
perceived harmlessness of marijuana and the growing trend toward the use of synthetics. Here, we’ll talk about the rampant use of prescription drugs and the myriad dangers which accompany their use.

When it comes to prescription drugs, the ease of acquisition is often as simple as going through a parents’ or relative’s medicine cabinet, raiding a friend’s house, or simply trading with friends at school or at parties. The use of opioid prescriptions like Oxycontin and Vicodin are rampant…and deadly. As reported in Monitoring the Future’s 2010 National Results on Adolescent Drug Use: Overview of Key Findings, “54% of high-school seniors said ‘opioid drugs other than heroin (e.g., Vicodin) would be fairly easy to get.’” Why are teens using prescription drugs with such frequency? Could it simply be the ease with which they’re obtained? Or is it the built-in societal respect for doctors and their judgment which allows us to look away when the pen flies across the prescription pad.

Take note of the behaviors and physical symptoms which surround prescription drug addiction (via Educate Before You Medicatewww.talkaboutrx.org):

Behavioral signs:

  • Sudden mood changes:
    • Irritability
    • Negativity
    • Personality change
    • Extreme change in friends or hangout locations
    • Lying or being deceitful
      • Skipping school
      • Avoiding eye contact
      • Losing interest in personal appearance, extracurricular activities, sports
      • Sudden changes in appetite
      • Sudden drop in grades and/or academic or athletic involvement
      • Borrowing money or having extra, unexplained cash
      • Acting especially angry or abusive, or engaging in reckless behavior

 Physical Signs and Symptoms (these are varied, depending on the drug being used/abused):

Stimulants can bring about:

  • Hyperactivity
  • Shaking
  • Sweating
  • Dilated pupils
  • Fast or irregular heartbeat
  • Elevated body temperature
  • Seizures
  • Paranoia/nervousness
  • Repetitive behaviors
  • Loss of appetite or sudden and unexplained weight loss

Sedatives/depressants can bring about:

  • Loss of coordination
  • Respiratory depression
  • Slowed reflexes
  • Slurred speech
  • Coma

Opioids can bring about:

  • Sleep deprivation or “nodding.”
  • Pinpoint/constricted pupils, watery or droopy eyes
  • Nausea, vomiting, constipation
  • Slow, slurred speech
  • Slow gait
  • Dry skin, itching, infections
  • Constant flu-like symptoms
  • Track marks (bruising at injection sites)

The unfortunate, but common misconception is that prescription drug use is safer than illegal drugs like cocaine and heroin: because it’s been prescribed, it’s “okay.” The problem with this ideology is doctors consistently prescribe and sometimes inadvertently over-prescribe narcotics, A: because they work, and B: because it’s easy. What this influx of prescription drugs does, however, is provide an underground stockpile of prescription opioids in the homes of our adolescents and their friends. As patients, start asking for non-narcotic alternatives. It makes no difference to the doctor but it may make the difference of life and death for you or someone in your family.

Start disposing of any unused medications and store those that are necessary in a secured place. Honestly, these days, the medicine cabinet should probably only be used for toothpaste and Tiger Balm.

Categories
Addiction Marijuana Smoking Synthetic Drugs

Marijuana and its Synthetic Counterparts: A Look at a New Study

Part one of a three-part blog, wherein I will begin to address the use of marijuana and synthetic marijuana. Stay tuned for parts 2 and 3, where I will address the increase in prescription drug and hookah use.

Recent studies elicited by Monitoring the Future (MTF) show a decrease in alcohol consumption and tobacco use; at the same time, they found an increase in the use of alternate tobacco products (hookah, small cigars, smokeless tobacco), marijuana, and prescription drugs.

One explanation for the increase in marijuana consumption is a lower perceived risk: “In recent years, fewer teens report seeing much danger associated with its use, even with regular use.” The call to legalize marijuana has also contributed to this new perception by extinguishing some of the associated stigma. As a result, we are seeing a denial of risk and a decline in disapproval amongst our adolescent counterparts. There seems to be a viable change in societal norms occurring at the adolescent level. No longer is marijuana use relegated to the “losers,” but rather it is now part and parcel to one’s normative social interactions with anyone, regardless of socio-economic status. With the advent of synthetic marijuana, the perception of danger has been further clouded by the sheer fact that these synthetic substances can be purchased almost anywhere. The surge in the use of synthetic marijuana products like Spice and K2 has created a maelstrom of reported symptoms which include:

  • paranoia;
  • loss of consciousness;
  • hallucinations, and;
  • psychotic episodes.

We currently see more and more kids coming into treatment with a history of Spice and K2 use. And Gil Kerlikoeske, Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) points out that, “Poison control center data across America has shown a substantial rise in the number of calls from victims suffering serious consequences from these synthetic drugs.” Currently, the House has voted on a ban of synthetic drugs like Spice, K2, bath salts, et cetera, asking that it be added to the “highly restrictive Schedule 1 of the Controlled Substances Act.” So far, approximately 40 states have passed laws which criminalize Spice and other synthetic substances.

Whether banned or not, there needs to be open dialogue about Spice and K2 and its various counterparts. These synthetics are popping up faster than the DEA can regulate them, proving that the drug environment is changing before our eyes. As such, it’s imperative we stay fluent in the language of our teens, and the social environments in which they operate. We all know the “thrill of the high” is often associated with the verboten nature of its purchase and consumption. Open dialogue removes the mystery, and frankly, it’s not enough to rely upon the justice system to provide the answers.