Prescription Drug Abuse
A legislation aimed at fighting dextromethorphan abuse has recently won the support of New York lawmakers, and is now at Governor Andre Cuomo’s desk for final approval.
The bill, sponsored by Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee, directs any retail establishment to prohibit the sale of products containing dextromethorphan (DXM) to persons under 18 without a valid prescription.
“Too many of our teens are abusing this medicine to get high,” Jaffee said during a press conference at South Orangetown Middle School early this month.
Jaffee began working on the bill two years ago after hearing stories about the negative impact of DXM abuse. She did her research on the topic, review the dangers of peer pressure, and assess how poor discussion about the problem is destroying the lives of the country’s future generation.
Similar legislation is already in place several counties including Westchester, Suffolk and Nassau County. But Jaffee’s bill will enforce the age restriction on a state level. Once Gov. Cuomo signs the bill, a $250 fine will be imposed to those who will be caught violating the provisions of the new law.
“I think the bill is going to make a huge difference. It will deny access. And once you deny access, you raise awareness,” Jaffe noted. “It’s a very important step.”
The White House Office on National Drug Policy declared prescription drug abuse as the fastest-growing drug problem in America. A recent study showed that in just five years the number of teens who are misusing prescription medicine had climbed to about 5 million, with 20 percent of them saying they started abusing Rx medications before age 14.
Surprisingly, teenagers can tell you dozens of reasons why they are turning to prescription drugs even though they are in perfectly good health. Adderall and Ritalin, for instance, are getting widespread attention lately because some teens are using them to improve academic performance. But aside from understanding teenage angst it is in your best interest to also know the pills that could attract your child’s attention.
This pain-reliever is often prescribed in people with arthritis, cancer, and other medical conditions whose symptoms include chronic and sever pain. It effectively eases pain if taken under prescribed dosages. However, the drug can be abused by being snorted or injected, producing a quick and powerful “high” that is said to be comparable with the feeling of taking heroin.
Among the negative side effects of OxyContin include drowsiness, weakness, nausea, impaired coordination, confusion, addiction, coma, even death due to overdose.
Although getting high is what drives many teens to abuse prescription drugs, others do so to address personal issues. Ambien abuse, for example, can occur because a person wants to experience sedating effects. But some teens are taking their spontaneity to a higher level by taking the drug with alcohol, which proves to be even more dangerous. Among the side effects of the drug include slowed breathing, lowered blood pressure, memory loss, hallucinations, unconsciousness, confusion, impaired coordination, coma, and death.
This brand of stimulant is used to treat attention deficit disorder (ADD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Teens are especially prone to abuse the drug because it is believed to help them lose weight or study better. What teenagers don’t know is that taking Concerta outside of the prescribed method can be very dangerous and lead to paranoia, schizophrenia, or psychosis. Other negative side effects of the drug include increase or decrease in blood pressure and digestive problems.
A prescription medication classified as a benzodiazepine, Xanax is used to treat panic disorder as well as manage anxiety disorder or temporarily relieve anxiety symptoms. One of the reasons teens abuse the drug is because it gives feelings of well-being and lowered inhibitions. But it could also lead to irritability, drowsiness, memory problems, lack of focus and coordination, confusion, tremors, depression, hostility, seizures, chest problem, and hallucination.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has awarded East Tennessee State University more than $2 million to launch a five-year research program aimed at fighting prescription drug abuse.
Dr. Robert Pack, the principal investigator on the grant, professor and associate dean for Academic Affairs at the ETSU College of Public Health, said the research initiative will be especially relevant to the Southern Appalachia region where the Rx abuse epidemic is disproportionally high.
“Prescription drug abuse is a disease, plain and simple, and it affects people from all walks of life,” Dr. Pack said in a news release. “I would say that most everyone in our region knows someone personally – a friend or a family member – who has been caught in the grip of it, or still is.”
Dr. Pack and his team will study how improving communication among health care providers who prescribe drugs, pharmacists who dispense them, and the patients who receive them can reduce illicit use of prescription medicines. They will also study how well health care providers think that they communicate with patients about substance abuse, and how prepared they feel to intervene in cases of suspected substance abuse. The researchers will also quantify outcomes of drug take-back events and drug donation boxes where substances with potential for abuse are removed from households.
“This won’t be just an academic exercise,” Pack added. “Through our research on improving communication among providers, prescribers and patients, we intend to develop real solutions to reduce the impact of prescription drug abuse in our region.”
Anyone who’s gone to school can accurately describe the challenges of being a student. But unlike in highschool the pressures that come with those pursuing higher education are much more unbearable, prompting some college students to use certain prescription drugs to gain academic advantage.
Lately, we have been hearing news about the increasing number of students who are using Ritalin and Adderall to help them study for finals week. But this problem isn’t exactly new and so are the ways students access the drugs. A 2005 New York Times report cited surveys that showed 20 percent of college students were relying on Ritalin and Adderall to study, write papers and take exams.
In 2006, another study emerged concluding that more than 75 percent of college students were using Ritalin and Adderall to boost academic competitiveness.
NPR has also run a story in 2009, highlighting the illegal use of Ritalin and Adderall, with one student confessing how Adderall makes her excited and motivated in doing her school work.
Then in 2011, CNN interviewed University of Kentucky professor and researcher Alan DeSantis who said Adderall is abused more than marijuana. He found that 30 percent of students at the university have illegally used Adderall and Ritalin to handle academic demands. His study also showed that the use of ADHD drugs were more prevalent in upperclassmen.
But whether or not Ritalin and Adderall are effective in improving academic performance experts say their side effects shouldn’t be taken for granted. Under federal law, these drugs are Schedule II substances which means they can only be obtained with a prescription. And there is a reason for that: both drugs pose a risk of abuse despite their high level of usefulness.
Dr. Raymond Kotwicki, an assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry at Emory University’s school of medicine in Atlanta, told CNN that while Adderall or Ritalin could make a student’s life easier it’s onyl temporary. “…in the long run there are significant problems both in terms of thinking, mood problems, maybe even functionality,” he explained.
And like other stimulant drugs, the so-called study drugs could result to increased heart and breathing rates. For some students with no legitimate reason to use Ritalin or Adderall, the drugs could make them feel excited, happy, and energetic. For others, they could cause agitation, irritability, and anxiety.
Last week, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer urged New York colleges and universities to tighten their standards so that it would become more difficult for college students to obtain ADHD drugs, saying that at least 14 to 35 percent of college students nationwide are taking Ritalin and Adderall as a study tool.
“When used properly to treat a legitimately diagnosed attention disorder, drugs like Adderall and Ritalin can help students focus and learn, but all too often these cases are the minority on college campuses. Plain and simple: using Adderall as a study drug is academic doping, and what’s more, it can lead to abuse and serious negative effects like depression, anxiety, and in some cases, psychosis,” Schumer said at a conference call.
Other side effects of the drugs include hypertension, seizures, mydriasis, elevate blood pressure, depression, and even psychosis. And even if the drugs are not abused common side effects include lack of appetite, increased blood pressure, headache, dry mouth, insomnia and weight loss.
One of Florida’s widely recognized rehab center is working with the state to help fight non-medical use of prescription drugs.
Destination Hope recently expanded its facilities to offer treatment to men and women who struggle with prescription drug abuse. Its goal is to provide a safe, calm environment where individuals can focus on recovery. The center believes their service and expansion will serve as community support for government efforts to reduce the number of Floridians getting addicted to Rx medications.
“Prescription drug addiction is often viewed as the most difficult form of substance abuse to fight,” Ben Brafman, chief executive officer and founder of Destination Hope, said in a news release. He added that the state and community centers’ involvement in addressing the problem could lead to better treatment options and prevention of new cases of addiction.
“Our goal is to decrease the number of Americans who are addicted to legal drugs,” Brafman said. “In turn, this will ideally prevent them from turning to illicit drugs like heroin or opium. To treat addiction, we need to treat the whole person, giving them the skills to live a healthy life, free of addiction to any unhealthy substances.”
Florida has one of the worst cases of prescription drug abuse in the country. The state is vigorously trying to combat the problem through a series of anti-prescription drug abuse laws and regulations. Early this month, Attorney General Pam Bondi announced the “Born Drug Free Florida” campaign which aims to reduce the number of infants being born addicted to prescription drugs. She also recently joined 22 other attorneys general in urging Urban Outfitters to stop selling products that promote prescription drug abuse.
America’s Empire State of the South unveiled a new program aimed at fighting teen prescription drug abuse.
Generation Rx (GEN Rx) Project was launched last week at the Georgia Capitol in response to the growing epidemic of prescription drug abuse among youth and adults aged 12 – 25 in Georgia. Present at the launch were Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities (DBHDD) Commissioner Frank Berry, members of the Georgia Legislature, and youth from Catoosa and Gwinnett Counties.
“The abuse of prescription drugs by youth in Georgia and across the country has grown substantially since the 1990s,” Commissioner Berry said in a news release. “Every day, 2,500 youth aged 12 to 17 abuse a prescription pain reliever for the first time, and nearly 20 percent of teens report abusing medications that were not prescribed to them.”
GEN Rx is funded by a $2.6 million grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). It uses a four-pronged approach which includes the following:
- Education and awareness about the dangers of abuse
- Promoting the utilization of Georgia’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program
- Education about the proper disposal of unused and expired medications
- Collaboration with law enforcement to eliminate improper prescribing practices
In the last few years, the state of Georgia has been addressing the crisis through several programs and local government efforts. In 2011, the state adopted the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program (PDMP) which enables pharmacists to track the issuance of prescription drugs to identify individuals who are “doctor shopping,” as well as pill mill operators.
There’s also the “Think About It” Program launched by the Medical Association of Georgia Foundation recently to increase awareness on the issue of prescription drug abuse and coordinate efforts by multiple collaborative partners.