The Opiate Epedemic & the Dangers for Teenagers
October 20, 2011 1 Comment
In the USA today it’s hard to watch a television news report or read a publication which does not cite the every growing abuse of Opiates. Roxycotin, Oxycodone, Vicodin, Percoset etc. Everyday new stories of abuse, rising criminal rates, incarceration and death related to this epidemic are printed or reported on.
This prescription drug abuse epidemic is found throughout all age groups. However the highest concentration can be found in those in their forties along with young adults and teenagers.
Between 1992 & 2002 there was a 236% percent increase of abuse cited in two studies conducted in these time frames. In the rural areas of Virginia death rates increased 300% from drug abuse between 1997 & 2003 while 74% of those deaths were attributed to Opiate use via prescription drug abuse.
The death rates from prescription drug abuse have now overtaken the use of illicit narcotics a profoundly disturbing trend which only grows stronger everyday in America.
While cities with their concentrated populace would be thought to have the highest rates suburban and rural areas are bucking the conventional wisdom via high rates of abuse and deaths related to prescription drug abuse. Studies have shown that hydrocodone and oxycodone have a higher potential for abuse and use by these newer drug addicts.
During 2006 there were approximately 740,000+ visits to the emergency room in regards to abuse of drugs across the US. Of these visits a full 33% percent fall squarely on the back of the Opiate family of drugs being used in a recreational or addictive setting by the patient. There is also the differences in gender to consider where one study points to female abuse at 29.8% versus male 21.1%.
For adolescents who begin prescription drug abuse before or at age 13 there is an increased likelihood of addiction versus abuse at age 21 or above. A 2008 Partnership for a Drug-Free America survey of 6,518 youth produced a rate of 19% reporting abuse of prescription drugs, a very troubling statistic. A staggering 41% of these youths believed that prescription drugs were less dangerous than illegal drugs.
So they raid their parents or other siblings drug medications to get what they believe is a safer way to get high and escape via self-medication. As far as younger youth are concerned a recent study relayed that for 8th 10th & 12th grade students the rates of prescription drug abuse ranged from 1.8-2.7%, 3.9-7.2% and 5.2-9.6%. In the study 2.1% represents 5.2 million teenagers the different rates above for example 1.8% of 8th graders abuse Oxycontin & 2.7% abuse Vicodin either stolen from their parents medicine chest or a friends parents medicine cabinet.
The fearless nature of teenagers only heightens the danger as mixing drugs and alcohol will only make matters worse and could quite possibly lead to a drug overdose. This coupled with the higher propensity of a teenage abuser having a higher likelihood of becoming an addict exhibits a pressing need for parents to keep all medications out of the reach of anyone who might enter their home.
For 2006 the costs to society are an eye opening experience where abuse costs $53.4 billion with $8.2bil going towards judicial costs and $2.2bil for treatment as well as $945million to treat medical complications arising from drug abuse.
As of 2009 drug related deaths took over and surpassed motor vehicle accidents as the leading cause of death. From 1999 to 2007 a four fold increase in drug related deaths were reported. The rate of death in the state of Florida for Oxycodone increased 263% from 2003 to 2009. In the years from 2004 to 2009 emergency room visits from the same drug increased 265% nationwide.
While there is no magic bullet I believe there are steps that can be taken to avoid a patient from becoming an addict.
Physicians in the USA are rarely called to task on this subject in regards to monitoring their patients. This is not to say that all physicians conduct themselves this way. However having been prescribed these types of drugs during my lifetime I have never had a doctor attempt to educate me on the dangers of these drugs. Nor have I ever been tested prior, during or post treatment and I’ve never heard of anyone else who had a different experience, although I am sure there are exceptions.
There are almost no doctors practicing medicine today that will get a urine sample for drug testing prior to writing a prescription for these powerful drugs. Yet these tests are widely available and can be performed at an office visit Before a patient is prescribed any narcotics. The diagnostic test only costs $7 USD and gives results in approximately 5-8minutes.
Why would a doctor give a prescription to a patient already abusing opiates? Post treatment an office visit would be performed 1-2 weeks after the patient had supposedly ceased taking the medication. If this urine test again performed at the physician’s practice during a routine follow-up visit were performed the doctor would possibly then find out that their patient had a high probability of being an addict.
In the two examples above either before or after treatment the doctor could get a clearer picture of what kind of patient they were treating.
The treating physician would then be able to discuss and educate the patient on the effects, costs and treatments available to assist the patient in withdrawing from a drug before they became a full blown addict.
Of course this would be tactfully done by the doctor who would not come in and condemn anyone as an addict. However they could preemptively step up to the plate and educate the patient.
However very few doctors perform these tests to the detriment of their patients. They also fail to educate their patients prior to writing a prescription for these powerful opiates.
It’s much easier to attempt to control addictive behavior prior to a patient becoming an addict than after the fact when the drug has taken hold and changed the brain chemistry of a patient. Yet again this is almost Never done by the prescribing doctor.
If parents were better educated on the prevalence of teenage drug abuse. They would in turn have a better chance of hiding away these drugs so that their children or one of their children’s friends could not innocently ask to use the restroom only to steal a parents medication.
So many look at the costs after the fact rather then attacking the source. Testing new patients for drug use and educating them on the dangers of addiction would be time well spent.
If a patient prior to being prescribed a powerful opiate drug were found to already be using an opiate they might be given the choice of a smaller dose and quantities of drugs or none at all. The doctor would then know that they needed to monitor their patients drug use more closely. They would also be armed and ready to prescribe drugs such as Clonidine to assist the addict during the withdrawal process a more effective yet less prone to abuse withdrawal drug versus Methadone. After the withdrawal period has passed another urine test could be performed to verify success in treating the addicted patient. Also at this time the physician could reinforce the patients education point out support groups as well as relay to the patient that their physician was there to help them to stay clean via treatment and counseling.
For parents there are quick easy to use urine test kits available for around $7 USD to test their children. These tests are accurate, available to order online and produce results in minutes. Upon a positive test of a child the parent could begin to take the required steps to get their children the help they needed. Again it’s easier to treat an addict of only say a month or so versus the later before a visit to the emergency room or even sadly the death of their child.
Would it be considered invasive to monitor and ask your child for a urine sample, yes. If the parent were overly concerned they could set up a doctor’s appointment and give the child no notice until they picked them up at school to go to the doctor for a needed physical, (deceitful yes less prone to a confrontation somewhat, decisions have to be made).
However testing and starting treatment as soon as possible rather then losing your child to drug abuse I’m certain would be much harder.
For those who are addicted there are treatments available however you yourself need to have to have the want to QUIT. There are drugs that will help clonidine is a very good choice I would not recommend Methadone. There are also therapy programs available where you can discuss your issues with people who have already gone through what you are going through right now.
Don’t be concerned about anyone looking down upon you groups created for addicts do not operate that way.
Or you can continue to abuse as you watch your life disintegrate before your very eyes. Possibly losing your family, home, job as well as slowly destroy your body as you will slide further into depression. I beg of you people do care they want to help you,,,Just Take the First Step.
For those with Chronic pain from various elements unfortunately you will probably be on these types of drugs for a lifetime. If you have a medical need and countless patients do then continue your treatment get quarterly liver toxicity tests from your doctor and do the best you can. If you begin taking more and more drugs because of pain coupled with depression consider joining an online forum or group in your area.
It is truly unfortunate that those that abuse these drugs are endangering the lives and mental states of those who Truly Honestly need these drugs to live their daily lives. One minute your fine the next following an accident and your whole life is turned upside down. While it may not matter to you I Do Truly Feel for You and only hope that you can live the best life you can, may God Bless you and help through these times.
FAIR USE NOTICE: This blog may contain copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes, to advance understanding of human rights, democracy, scientific, moral, ethical, and social justice issues, etc. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in Title 17 U.S.C. section 107 of the US Copyright Law. This material is distributed without profit.