Already this fall one college campus has been rocked by prescription drug abuse. A cheerleader from the University of Minnesota was arrested in September when she was found in possession of drugs without a prescription. This is but a microcosm of a serious national problem. Young people all across America are buying and sharing powerful prescription medications.
The 18-year-old at the University of Minnesota was seen wandering up and down the halls of her dormitory, seemingly in a drunken state. When officials entered her dorm room they found prescription painkillers but no prescription. They also found an electronic scale and an undisclosed amount of marijuana. She is facing three separate felony charges and potentially five years in prison.
Majority Of College Students Sharing Prescriptions?
But her story is far from unique. One survey reported that 70 percent of college co-eds said they shared prescription medications with one another. A health official told a local news station that that for every one student with a legitimate prescription another five students possess stimulants with no prescription. And the problem is not restricted to college campuses. Another study found that 20 percent of graduating high school students say they have used prescription drugs for non-medical purposes.
One reason prescription drug abuse has escalated has to do with the enormous supply of pills that are floating around where young people can get them. An astounding 210 million prescriptions were written by doctors for painkillers in 2010, and that number has only gotten larger. With that many pills sitting on shelves in homes it’s hard to choke off the supply.
Opiates And Stimulants – Drugs Favored By College Students
The most popularly abused prescription drugs are opiate painkillers derived from the same opium poppy as heroin. When meds become harder to get or start costing too much, kids move on to heroin as it produces similar effects at a fraction of the cost.
Stimulants like Adderall and Ritalin are also popular among young people. These drugs are most often used to treat the symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, but healthy kids take them to increase study skills, stay awake for parties and lose weight.
Dangers Of Prescription Drug Abuse
According to the Centers for Disease Control, at least 100 people die each day as a result of prescription drug overdose. The danger is real, though young people seem oblivious. The arrest of a pretty young college cheerleader is just the tip of the iceberg.
A retailer in California is selling shirts which appear to promote, celebrate or at least trivialize the problem of prescription drug abuse. Kitson stores are marketing t-shirts that resemble football jerseys, but instead of a player’s name on the back they bear the names of the prescription drugs most often abused by American teens.
Xanax, Adderall and Vicodin are among the drugs features on these high-priced fashions, which may be crossing the line of responsible advertising say experts.
Kitson had pledged to donate a portion of the profits from shirt sales to the Medicine Abuse Project which is part of Drugfree.org. However, a statement from Drugfree.org said that not only have they not received any money, they “would not entertain any direct donation from Kitson while they flagrantly, and without remorse, continue to sell these products.”
Style’s Poor Taste
The shirts are marketed on their website with the gimmick line, “Pop one on and you’ll feel better. Doctors orders.” The clothing’s designer has stated that his intent is to start an important dialog between people on the subject of prescription drug abuse. Drugfree.org isn’t buying it and encouraged readers to share their opinions with Kitson on that company’s Facebook page.
It didn’t take long for the Kitson page to fill with negative comments pillorying the company for mocking such a serious problem and hoping to profit from it as well. But it wasn’t only a concerned citizenry who is crying foul here. The makers of these drugs are also taking the company to task.
Prescription Drug Maker’s Disapproval
Representatives from the makers of Xanax (Pfizer) and Adderall (Reps Shire) made public statements challenging Kitson’s right to make use of drug trademarks. Both companies denounced glorifying prescription drug abuse and separated themselves from marketing such apparel to youth. In addition, both companies threatened legal action if the clothing line is not shut down. Makers of Vicodin have not made public statements, but it is rumored that they too will pursue legal action against Kitson.
Whether or not Kitson ever donates a penny to Drugfree.org remains to be seen, but it is actually besides the point. The real question is whether there are any safe boundaries when it comes to fashionable drug promotion. We already know there are none in terms of drug abuse.
The misuse of prescription drugs has become a serious problem in the United States. In many situations a prescription is written for a legitimate health problem, it’s used for a time and then left forgotten in a medicine cabinet.
Teens raid their parents’ and other relatives’ medicine cabinets to pilfer prescription drugs and the drugs are taken to parties where they’re mixed in combination with various other drugs. This practice can be dangerous, even deadly.
While pain medications are a common choice, another drug readily available is Adderall, which is prescribed for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). This stimulant can allow students to focus and avoid sleep for days in an effort to work on a task or study. However, there are dangerous side effects, including heart palpitations and painful urination.
Along with improved academic performance, Adderall can also improve athletic performance. A recent study published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs provides an analysis of Adderall use among adolescent athletes.
The researchers accessed data from the Monitoring the Future survey that gathered information from 8th and 10th graders in 2010 and 2011. The survey included 21,137 teens and measured the past-year non-medical use of the drug and used logistic regression analysis to determine if there was a connection between the level of involvement in competitive sports and nonmedical Adderall use.
The results showed that Adderall use was more pervasive in certain sports and there were differences between the genders. Males that played lacrosse and males that wrestled were more likely to use the drug, while females did not show any patterns of use based on particular sports.
The study’s findings showed that certain sports, particularly those involving a high level of contact, may lead to pressure among males to improve performance through a stimulant like Adderall.
How Parent’s Can Help
Parents may not realize the stress that their children deal with as they compete for grades and placement on sports teams. In many cases, the teen may feel that parental expectations are adding to their stress, so a parents’ reassurance may help them avoid the danger of drug use.
Parents can help their children avoid the misuse of Adderall and other prescription drugs by talking regularly about the pressures of school and extracurricular activities, including sports. They can also work to maintain some level of contact with teachers and coaches to help ensure that their teen is exhibiting healthy behaviors related to school, sports and extracurricular activities.
Click Here – To Read More About Teen Substance Abuse
18 Sep 2013
Deaths among women from prescription pain medications are on a steep incline, according to a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The study reported that deaths among women due to prescription painkiller abuse grew five-fold from 1999 to 2000. During the same time period, deaths from prescription painkiller overdoses among men grew by 3 ½ times its previous rate. This report highlights the longstanding problem of widespread abuse of prescription pain drugs among women—a problem that has often been overlooked or minimized.
Drug abuse in general, including abuse of prescription painkillers, is often viewed as a bigger problem for men than for women. While it is true that men do make up a larger percentage of all drug abusers, prescription painkiller abuse has affected women in larger numbers for more than a century. And while there are still more yearly deaths among men from prescription drugs—including prescription painkillers—the rapid spike in deaths among women in recent years means that the gender gap is quickly closing.
Painkiller Abuse In The 19th Century
Epidemiological reports from the 19th century estimate that women made up 65 percent to 75 percent of all individuals addicted to opium. This was often the result of self-medication, the use of unregulated “patent” medicines, or irresponsible and inappropriate prescriptions on the part of qualified physicians. In this century, women were often unnecessarily medicated even by qualified professionals due to the prevailing belief of the time that women were fragile and unable to cope with physical pain or emotional distress without assistance. Women were often treated for a vague complaint known as neurasthenia—characterized primarily by fatigue, headaches and irritability—as well as other “disorders” whose existence have now been largely discredited.
Modern Drug Use Among Women
As early as the 1960s, studies have shown that women make up the majority of prescription drug users in the United States. This includes painkillers, psychoactive medications and antidepressants.
There are a variety of possible reasons for this gender imbalance. For example, modern studies have provided evidence that women experience more chronic pain than men do, or at least seek treatment for chronic pain more frequently. Women who use prescription medications report many other factors that contributed to their decision to seek treatment for physical or mental distress. These factors often include gender discrimination in work or social settings, the economic and emotional challenges of being the primary caregiver or a single parent, and societal expectations.
Studies have show that when women are prescribed pain medication, they are more likely to be given higher doses and medicated for a longer period of time than their male counterparts. One possible explanation for this phenomenon is that men remain more likely to have jobs involving manual labor with high risk of short-term injuries. In contrast, women are more likely to experience chronic pain when reaching middle age and seek treatment over a long period of time.
With a large and rapidly growing number of women taking prescription painkillers, the odds increase that a certain number of these women will develop physical dependencies. Many prescription pain medications, including Vicodin and morphine, are opioid drugs that are highly addictive.
Equal Opportunity Drug Abuse
Since as early as the 1920s, the overwhelming majority of drug users among men have been from minority populations and economically disadvantaged backgrounds. In contrast, prescription drug abuse among women has always affected a much more varied population, from the wealthy to the working classes. Although white and Native American populations have the highest numbers of deaths from prescription painkillers, the problem is by no means unique to those demographic groups.
While women who abuse prescription painkillers do not come from one predominant economic situation or ethnicity, there is a strong trend apparent when it comes to age. The rate of deaths from prescription painkillers more than tripled among women ages 45 through 54, and also tripled for women ages 55 through 64. In the year 2010, middle-aged women in these age groups made up almost half of the overall deaths among women from drug overdoses.
05 Sep 2013
If you look up the number one prescribed medication in the United States you will find Xanax at the very top of the list. The anti-anxiety medication is so widely prescribed these days that it can be found in a shockingly high number of American households. Used to treat anxiety and panic disorders, the drug is also commonly prescribed for patients complaining of high stress. Despite the fact that Xanax has recently been implicated in some high profile overdose deaths, the drug continues to enjoy widespread popularity.
Xanax is part of a family of drugs known as diazepines. Its chemical designation is Alprazolam and in 2009, 44 million prescriptions for the drug were written. By 2011 diazepine prescriptions were numbering above 260 million, of which Xanax represents the lion’s share.
Dangerous Quick High
Unfortunately the drug is not only popular with patients and their doctors but with young adults and teens looking for a quick drug-induced escape from reality. Teens like Xanax because it is so accessible – just grab one out of mom or dad’s medicine cabinet, right? – but also because the drug offers such a quick “high.” Within just 10 or 15 minutes users can feel an extreme high or low sensation. Users also experience accentuated symptoms of sedation like slurred speech, droopy eyes and other kinds of psychomotor retardation. Essentially, the person feels like they are drunk on alcohol.
Xanax provides a quick high because it is metabolized quickly, but the high ends just as fast as it comes on. The problem is that the drug also induces a state of memory impairment that is akin to blacking out. This creates a high risk situation since the person senses the absence of the sought after feelings but cannot remember that they recently took a pill, leaving them quite likely to pop another one. Taking even two Xanax in a short amount of time can have serious consequences.
Unfortunately, many who abuse Xanax also abuse alcohol. This means that users are taking two depressants at the same time. It is just like doubling up on Xanax in terms of risk. Drinking along with taking a Xanax may double the high, but it also ratchets up the risk factor – ingesting two strong depressants can slow down respiration (breathing) and the central nervous system to hazardously low levels.
Symptoms of Use
Symptoms of Xanax use include slowed heartbeat, trouble concentrating, slowed breathing, sleepiness, confusion and loss of memory. According to reports from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration more than 60,000 hospital admissions were the result of Xanax abuse in 2008. Since prescription rates for the drug have steadily climbed by 9 percent annually, current figures can be expected to vastly outstrip that number.
Benzodiazepines like Xanax are medically appropriate when used to help epileptics prevent serious seizures. The drug is sometimes prescribed to treat insomnia but warnings abound recommending that the drug only be used short-term for treating sleeplessness. It is probably most commonly prescribed to calm symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder, but again the drug is recommended only for short-term use, not more than one month.
Xanax works by increasing activity of the brain’s own soothing mechanism. Neurotransmitters known as GABA are naturally occurring sedatives. When these neurotransmitters are abnormally excited long-term a physical and psychological dependence (addiction) can result.
What this means is that it is not hard at all for people using Xanax to quickly feel like they need the drug in order to cope. Tolerance is a term which describes how the body adjusts to the presence of medications and eventually requires more of a substance in order to produce similar results. Teens who take Xanax can wind up addicted to the drug before they know it.
If a teen is mixing Xanax – or any medication recreationally – with alcohol, the potential for addiction skyrockets, as does the risk of lethal consequences.
02 Sep 2013
For some, college was a time for sleeping in and goofing off. For others, memories of college are associated with stress as students worked to achieve good grades while juggling intense academic requirements, extracurricular activities and relationships with a new level of personal responsibility.
The stakes are high. Students understand that their grades will help them secure a good job with financial security. Competition can be fierce to not only be accepted into but also remain in specialty colleges within the university that teach skills to teachers, therapists, accountants and engineers.
“Smart Drugs” Not so Smart
Recently, ABC affiliate 13WHAM of Rochester, New York, highlighted one way that students choose to handle the pressure – misusing prescription stimulants to increase focus and eliminate the need for sleep, known as “smart drugs.”
Adderall is just one brand name drug that students abuse as a study aid. Prescribed to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), the drug is so widely issued by doctors that students find it relatively easy to obtain as friends may be willing to sell their extra pills.
A study published in The Addiction Journal indicated that the problem is becoming widespread. One in four college students indicate they have used pills to get through an exam or other stressful academic situation.
The 13WHAM story profiles an individual under the pseudonym of Steve who regularly uses stimulants to meet academic requirements. He said the medication increases focus and avoid sleeping, allowing for a 72-hour straight study session he did when taking 60 milligrams of Adderall, which paid off with good grades.
Adderall Abuse & Risks
Adderall abuse is becoming more common and the effects of the drug can lead to increased medical interventions and the need for emergency care.
Students are unaware of or underestimate the risks associated with the misuse of prescription drugs. They may believe that prescription drugs are somehow safer than street drugs or that there isn’t a risk of mixing drugs with other medications. Experts, on the other hand, warn that the drugs can be extremely dangerous, with adverse reactions including stroke, heart attack and psychotic episodes.
13WHAM reported that university health center doctors were seeing increased attempts by students to get prescriptions for stimulants as finals approached. The physicians said that while they are generally able to help students who have a diagnosis for ADHD, it takes more than one exam session to determine whether a student is abusing stimulants.
What Parents Can Do
Parents should take time to talk to their college-age children about the risks of using stimulants. They can also speak openly about their opinions and rules related to substance use. While students enjoy an increased level of freedom at college, many are still receptive to their parents’ viewpoint while they are receiving support, both financial and otherwise.
While parents may doubt their influence, particularly after their teen has left home to pursue a degree, studies show that parents play an important role. Teens who abstain from substance use repeatedly indicate that their parents were influential in helping them decide not to use substances.
Parents can also be a source of support for their college-age child as they face the intense pressure and competition to succeed in school. Keeping an open conversation about the challenges and expectations involved with getting a degree may help a student avoid making poor decisions related to stress management.
You would be forgiven for thinking that the prescription drug epidemic affects only the users themselves. Abusing medicines such as Vicodin and OxyContin—opiate drugs with chemical similarities to heroin—puts the users at significant risk, killing more Americans than heroin and cocaine combined in 2008; but using when you’re pregnant presents a whole new class of risks. Babies of opiate-using mothers can be born in withdrawal, their systems shocked by the abrupt withdrawal of substances, and research has revealed that this is happening more and more frequently in the United States. In fact, three times as many babies were born with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) in 2009 than in 2000, reflecting the rapid rise in the prescription drug problem.
Lead researcher Dr. Stephen Patrick had noticed an increase in the number of babies with NAS at CS Mott Children’s Hospital at the University of Michigan, and set out to determine whether the numbers were also increasing across the country. The researchers looked at discharge records from 2000, 2003, 2006 and 2009 from a database of patients that covers 44 states and over 4,100 hospitals. When the researchers determined which of the births were associated with opiate use, they revealed some shocking statistics about the extent of the problem.
They found that the number of pregnant women abusing opiate medicines when the baby was being delivered was five times higher in 2009 than in 2000. In addition, the researchers found that the rates of illicit drug use during pregnancy were 16.2 percent of teens and 7.4 percent of adults. Generally speaking—and somewhat obviously—any drug use during pregnancy poses some risk to the infant since they’re getting small doses of anything the mother takes.
As you might expect with the increase in numbers of opiate-using mothers, the number of babies born with NAS has also increased significantly. The rate almost tripled over the experimental period, from 1.20 per 1,000 births up to 3.39 in 2009. This has a disturbing parallel with the numbers of overdose deaths from prescription painkillers since the 1990s, which has also increased three-fold. The problem can’t exist in a vacuum—related issues, like babies born with NAS, are bound to increase as well.
What Is NAS?
NAS is a condition that occurs when the baby becomes addicted to drugs along with the mother when it’s in the womb. It isn’t just opiate drugs that can lead to it: marijuana, benzodiazepines, cocaine, amphetamines and the use other substances can also result in NAS. The symptoms include excessive or high-pitched crying, fever, irritability, tremors, sweating, sleep problems and sneezing or a stuffy nose.
The researchers also found that the babies born with NAS were over three times more likely to have respiratory problems and over twice as likely to have a low birth weight. Interestingly, they were also notably more likely to be covered by Medicaid, meaning that the issues were more common in low-income families.
Better Treatment or Prevention?
The researchers also looked at the average length of stay for the newborns with NAS, which they noted hasn’t decreased over the last decade. From their perspective, this represents an area in need of improvement for physicians. Since state Medicaid programs bear much of the brunt of the problem, there is a lot of motivation to improve care for opiate-addicted pregnant women. The researchers argue that since there are no standardized clinical guidelines for treatment of NAS, it is possible to improve care for the babies themselves, possibly using a combination of an opiate and another medicine such as clonidine, but breastfeeding can also help.
The other suggestion is to enroll opiate-addicted mothers in methadone programs or provide them with drugs such as buprenorphine, which is often used in cases of opiate addiction. If these interventions were successful, the numbers of babies born with NAS would decrease, rather than just the amount of time they have to spend in treatment as a result of it.
Clearly, prevention of NAS is a considerably better solution than merely determining a better way to treat babies suffering from it, but the problem impacts much more than pregnant women. The rates of prescription painkiller abuse across the U.S. are on the rise, so this research serves as yet another reason to address that problem.
Amelia liked to think of herself as a survivor—soft but strong, able to persevere. Raised by a mother with mental illness, she knew a lot about how to handle difficult people and delicate events; it seemed she’d been walking on eggshells for as long as she could remember. Her father had left when she was 12 and the care and keeping of her mother, who only grew more unstable as a result, had fallen exclusively to Amelia. By the time she was 17, she was an expert on her mother’s medical records, how and when she needed to take her medication, and was working to support the two of them. She never made it to college. Maintaining a full-time job and the constant attention required in the care of her mother didn’t leave time for school.
As anxiety settled in throughout her 20’s and with the occasional “dark moods” that lasted months sometimes, Amelia found herself less and less capable of enduring not the physical hardship, but the psychological. Still, she wanted nothing to do with therapy; why should she spend upward of $100 an hour talking about herself? Life was just the way it was. When headaches started to overtake her, she finally saw a doctor.
Offering her full history to the small town general practitioner, Amelia was persuaded to provide a background. She discussed not only her unrelenting headaches but also the steady sense that things simply weren’t right—how she shook nervously and sweated. Her GP prescribed benzodiazepines to be used for acute episodes of anxiety and opiates for what he determined were migraines.
For a while, Amelia found comfort in the hypnotic quality of the drugs. It was as if she were floating somewhere just outside herself and nothing could harm her there. As weeks and months wore on, however, Amelia discovered that the recommended dosage no longer treated her anxiety or her pain. She began to increase her dosage. When she was threatened with eviction after one of her mother’s “incidents”—she’d taken after the neighbor with a garden hoe—it all became too much. Amelia made it through the experience relatively unscathed, but she’d discovered something useful to her: her medications were more powerful when combined with wine.
It wasn’t until a friend noticed how much Amelia was taking that she questioned it herself. She realized she’d been relying exclusively on the medication and the sense of escape it gave her, taking it every four hours whether she needed to or not. But when she tried to quit she discovered something even more alarming—she couldn’t.
Gendered Differences in Addiction
The CDC reports that between 1999 and 2010, opioid overdose deaths among women increased fivefold, while the numbers for men increased three times. Since 2007, more women have died from prescription overdose than in car accident related injuries, cervical cancer or homicides. Further studies reveal that while women tend to become addicted later than men, they do so more quickly. Once addicted, women are more vulnerable to relapse, and are less likely to seek treatment than men. According to Constance Scharff, Ph.D., “Women most often use drugs to deal with stress and regulate moods.” Women are prescribed potentially addictive medications more often than men, and for longer periods. This may be because women are speaking more openly with their doctors about both physical and psychological complaints, but the reasons are not entirely understood.
Prescription drug dependence may go unnoticed even to the user—many believe that because the medications are prescribed, they are safe. When more than the recommended dosage is being used and for longer than is required and when symptoms of withdrawal (such as nausea, agitation and sleep disturbance) occur at the cessation of the medication, addiction should be considered.
Recovery from prescription drug dependence is as important as any other addictive substance or process. The White House considers women to be among the top three high-risk groups for addiction, and looking at the numbers for accidental overdose deaths, it is no wonder. Long term abuse of certain addictive prescription medications, such as the benzodiazepines, carry potential consequences: “over sedation, impairment of memory, balance and learning, depression and emotional blunting.”
Treatment for Prescription Drug Addiction
Treatment for prescription drug addiction is similar to other treatments for addiction; it consists of a behavioral component wherein addicts learn to cope with life stress or physical pain without the use of medications, and where previous users are taught to become self-observant and proactive when cravings arise. There is evidence that psychotherapy in combination with NA group attendance, or another form of collective substance abuse support, can be effective in helping women recover. Given the high pressure lives that so many modern women contend with—where work outside the home is a foregone conclusion even while work inside the home does not diminish—the stress and pain that lead many down the slippery slope of secret addiction is unsurprising. What is most important is that women like Amelia find the help they need to recover—including doctors who better understand the risks of prescribing medications known to create dependence.