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Prescription drug abuse on rise among young people

Staff writer

It is illegal to take a drug not prescribed by a doctor, and it is illegal to provide a prescription drug to someone for whom it is not prescribed.

Dorothy Jochem of Regional Prevention Center of the Flint Hills presented a program about prescription drug abuse at the Interagency meeting May 8 in Marion.

Jochem said the problem affects all ages and both men and women.

Prescription drugs fall into three categories: opioids to treat pain, depressants to treat anxiety and sleep disorders, and stimulants to treat ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) and narcolepsy, a frequent and undesirable desire for sleep.

The largest increase in prescription drug abuse during the past decade has been in the 12-25-year-old age group. This is a special concern because the brain is not fully developed until age 25.

Prescription drugs often are readily available and unmonitored. Young people use them for “getting high.”

Jochem said sometimes teens bring prescription drugs to a party, throw them together in a bowl, and each takes a handful.

Some youth are being prescribed their own medicines for conditions such as attention deficit disorder and depression, and have found they can make money selling them to others.

In 2008, almost eight percent of surveyed youth in Marion County reported using a prescription drug not prescribed for them, for getting high at least once a month.

Side effects include increased blood pressure and heart rate, leading to seizures, heart attack, addiction, and/or death.

Jochem said it is important for adults with children at home to monitor their medicine cabinets, know how many of each medicine they have, and keep the cabinet locked.

“Look at what is in your cabinet,” she said. “If you don’t need them, get rid of them.”

The Federal Drug Administration provides guidelines for proper disposal of prescription drugs:

  • Take unused, unneeded, or expired prescription drugs out of their original containers and throw them in the trash.
  • Mixing drugs with an undesirable substance, such as used coffee grounds or kitty litter, and putting them in impermeable, non-descript containers such as empty cans or sealable bags, will further ensure drugs are not diverted.
  • Flush prescriptions drugs down the toilet only if the label or accompanying patient information instructs doing so.

Tracy Lanning of Marion Healthmart Pharmacy said people may bring unused or expired drugs to the pharmacy for disposal, if they wish.

Adults over age 60 account for 30 percent of prescription drug abuse. Most of those abuses, approximately 17 percent, are believed due to “accidental” abuse or “accidental” addiction.

Because women are more likely to visit physicians, they are more often prescribed medication and are twice as likely as men to become addicted to prescribed drugs.

Linda Ogden, director of Communities In Schools of Marion County, noted that outpatient service is available in Marion County from Prairie View to help people with prescription drug abuse problems.

A toll-free help line is available at 877-RX-abuse.

The next meeting of Marion County Interagency will be Sept. 11 at Pizza Hut in Hillsboro.

Last modified May 21, 2009

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