When host Seth MacFarlane quipped during Sunday night’s Oscar celebration in Los Angeles that some of the night’s older guests remembered when the town was “cocaine trees as far as the eyes could see,” he got a lot of laughs.
What the comic didn’t mention is that drug users have turned from illegal substances like cocaine and heroin to legal prescriptions and the results are just as deadly.
Overdoses from prescription painkillers, usually involving alcohol, recently overtook car crashes as the No. 1 cause of accidental death in the United States, according to a recent CNN article.
The Centers for Disease Control now considers prescription drug abuse an epidemic. While illegal drugs have seen a marked decrease in use, studies show that nearly one-third of people age 12 and over who use drugs for the first time begin with illicit use of prescription drugs.
Adults - who should know better - and children need to be educated about the dangers of prescription drugs. These drugs are still drugs, regardless of their legal status. Teens and adults who misuse prescription drugs often believe they are safer than street drugs because they are prescribed by a medical professional and dispensed by a pharmacist.
In the United States, we now prescribe enough pain pills to give every man, woman and child one every four hours, around the clock, for three weeks.
Drug overdose death rates in the United States, according to the CDC, have more than tripled since 1990.
And although many types of prescription drugs are abused, there is a growing epidemic of prescription painkiller abuse, with nearly three out of four prescription drug overdoses caused by painkillers.
The misuse and abuse of prescription painkillers was responsible for 60 percent of all drug overdose deaths in 2010. Opioid drugs such as OxyContin and Vicodin contribute to three out of four of these deaths, according to the CDC. People clearly don’t realize that opioids are the same class of drugs as heroin, only in prescription form.
It’s a big problem that is getting worse fast and education is a crucial first step in tackling the problem. In addition, old prescription drugs need to be taken out of circulation. When he took office, Sheriff Donnie Craig began a program allowing people to dispose of their old prescription drugs in drop boxes at the jail as a way to decrease the supply of available unused prescription drugs. It’s a great step because the majority of people who abuse prescription painkillers get drugs from friends and relatives. Often stolen from a elderly relative’s medicine cabinet a few at the time.
The latest National Survey on Drug Use and Health shows that over 70 percent of people who abused prescription pain relievers got them from friends or relatives, while five percent got them from a drug dealer or over the internet.
Let’s make the dangers of prescription drug abuse a community conversation. Let’s talk to our kids and their friends and our friends about the topic.
Let’s spread the word about the sheriff’s take-back program and encourage people to take advantage of it.
We’ll ask our readers to take a quick look at what’s sitting in their medicine cabinet to see if there are any leftover painkillers from a minor procedure done many months ago and since forgotten. If so, please remove these and take them to the sheriff’s office or dispose of them in some safe manner.