by J. D. Heyes
July 19, 2011
No parent wants to lose a child, but when one dies from something
that should be very preventable, the heartbreak and tragedy is
compounded. Such is increasingly the case with prescription drugs -
they're killing our youth.
Sarah Shay and Savannah Kissick, of Morehead, Ky., best friends
since high school, were both victims of what experts and the White
House are describing as an
epidemic of prescription drug deaths.
Sarah died in 2006 at the tender age of 19; Savannah just three
years later, at 22.
Since the medications they were using were prescribed by physicians,
some experts believe they carry some sort of legitimacy.
fact is they are being abused by young people just the same as drugs
that are illegal - more so even, in some cases.
"I don't think the kids have any idea how addicting the substance
is," Karen Shays told the BBC in an interview. "Before they know it,
bam! They're addicted."
being abused more and more in Kentucky in particular, but in other
parts of the nation too, by teenagers and young adults.
So bad is
the problem that the state has set up rehabilitation centers, where
a huge number of addicts - more all the time - are being treated.
So bad is the addition that some kids have even turned to crime to
Some of the kids say they could have likely found other drugs to
feed their habit, but prescription drugs were not only legal but
much easier to get.
All in all, it's sort of like Armageddon, but with prescription
drugs - a sort of "Pharmageddon," if you will, as evidenced by
Kentucky's overflowing jails, say state officials.
"I believe I can safely say that over 80 percent of the inmates in
the Pike County regional detention center are in there for something
dealing with their addiction to prescription drugs," Dan Smoot,
director of law enforcement with an organization called Unite - a
new and innovative counterdrug that combines police investigations,
treatment and education.
According to the federal
Office of National Drug Control Policy, in
a recent report, the problem stretches beyond the borders of
Kentucky - and it's getting worse.
"A number of national studies and published reports indicate that
the intentional abuse of prescription drugs, such as pain relievers,
tranquilizers, stimulants and sedatives, to get high is a growing
concern - particularly among teens - in the United States. In
fact, among young people ages 12-17, prescription drugs have become
the second most abused illegal drug, behind marijuana," said the
study, called, "Teens and Prescription Drugs."
"Though overall teen drug use is down nationwide and the percentage
of teens abusing prescription drugs is still relatively low compared
to marijuana use, there are troubling signs that teens view abusing
prescription drugs as safer than illegal drugs and parents are
unaware of the problem," it said.
In particular, the study found:
Teens are turning more and more
away from illegal street drugs and instead are taking (and
abusing) more prescription medications - so much so that new
users of prescription drugs have caught up with new users of
Next to marijuana, the next most
common thing kids use to get high are prescription drugs
Teens abuse prescription
medications because they mistakenly believe that, since they
are prescribed, they provide safe highs
Most teens get prescription
drugs easily and free, usually from friends or relatives
The most commonly abused drugs by kids are OxyContin and Vicodin
Adolescents are more likely to get hooked on prescription
medication than are young adults
The study found that teens most likely to abuse prescription
medications live in the west and southeast.
The most common abuse
occurs in the following states:
"There's a reason that prescription drugs are intended to be taken
under the direction of a doctor: if used improperly they can be
dangerous," said a recent National Institute of Drug Abuse summary.
Abuse of prescription painkillers in general is not new. In fact,
such abuse has
risen 400 percent between 1998 and 2008.
But now it seems, our kids have made a startling discovery - that
using prescription meds to get high - is too easy and too
And it's costing more of them their lives.