Generation Rx

Grand Futures director: Today's youths abusing prescription drugs

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Casey Jackson, a Craig Middle School eighth-grader, said he's heard some CMS students use Vicodin and alcohol to get a high on the weekends.

He doesn't get it.

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"They're idiots ... because drugs are bad for you," Jackson said.

But Chad Kiniston, director of Moffat County's Grand Futures Prevention Coalition, said not all youths are as wise as Jackson.

Recreational prescription drug use among teenagers has been on the rise for the past few years, according to the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration. And it's a problem many adults still are unaware of, Kiniston said.

Illicit drug use is down among teenagers nearly 2 percent from 2002 to 2006, according to the administration's 2005 report.

"But prescription drug use is up 6.4 percent in that same amount of time," Kiniston said. "Most people don't think about this as stuff kids are going to use.

"It's not frowned upon because it's not widely known that it's happening. But the consequences are just as real as they are for illicit drugs."

Kiniston said that's where the problem arises -- teenagers don't think prescription drugs are dangerous.

"They don't think it's bad to use prescription drugs," Kiniston said. "(They think) it's not as bad as using meth or cocaine because doctors give it to people every day."

Jane Krogman, Moffat County High School principal, sees a similar attitude among her students.

"I think there's a false perception that you can't get hurt," Krogman said.

She's seen prescription drug use and distribution at the school in the last five years and has confiscated one bottle of pills from a student this year.

Typically, students keep pills for themselves or give them to friends, Krogman said.

"Certainly, we'd be ignorant to say they aren't selling them, too, because nationwide, studies show they are," she said.

Kiniston said most teens abusing prescription drugs are taking them from their parents' or grandparents' medicine cabinets.

Commonly abused drugs are Vicodin, Xanax, Ritalin, OxyContin, Oxycodone and Codeine.

OxyContin and Oxycodone "are very, very, very addictive," Kiniston said. "They are forms of heroin that can be used as painkillers. You have to go to rehab to get off them."

Kinston said youths need to use care when taking prescription drugs and to only use ones prescribed for them by a doctor.

"These are drugs that are meant to help someone with a problem, not to make someone feel better for a few hours," Kiniston said.

While some youths use prescription drugs to try to treat self-diagnosed diseases, using prescription drugs to attain a temporary high is most common.

Krogman cited some students who are "skittling," or taking several cold treatment pills at once. She had her first run-in with the practice this year.

Kiniston has heard of "pharm parties" in big cities, in which each partygoer takes a bottle of pills. Everyone dumps their pills into a bowl and then takes a handful of mixed drugs.

"You don't even know what you're taking," Kiniston said. "The effects of what can happen to your mind and body are off the charts. There are real dangers there."

Kiniston said a couple of local teenagers have been taken to the hospital emergency room in recent months for mixing prescription drugs and alcohol. Those who do so could end up with permanent brain damage, he said.

"What's the worst that could happen? They could (overdose) and die," Kiniston said.

That's why it's critical for parents to tell their children about the proper uses of prescription drugs, Kiniston said. He advises adults to keep prescription drugs locked up and to explain the specific purposes for prescription drugs.

"It's with any drug, just talk to your kids," Kiniston said. "Communication is key here."

For more information on prescription drug abuse and ways to approach youths about it, visit www.theantidrug.com.

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