While the use of many street drugs is on a slight decline in the US, abuse of prescription drugs is growing. In 2007, 2.5 million Americans abused prescription drugs for the first time, compared to 2.1 million who used marijuana for the first time.
Among teens, prescription drugs are the most commonly used drugs next to marijuana, and almost half of the teens abusing prescription drugs are taking painkillers.
Why are so many young people turning to prescription drugs to get high?
By survey, almost 50% of teens believe that taking prescription drugs is much safer than using illegal street drugs.
What is not known by most of these young people is the risk they are taking by consuming these highly potent and mind-altering drugs. Long-term use of painkillers can lead to dependence, even for people who are prescribed them to relieve a medical condition but eventually fall into the trap of abuse and addiction.
In some cases, the dangers of painkillers don’t surface until it is too late. In 2007, for example, abuse of the painkiller Fentanyl killed more than 1,000 people. The drug was found to be thirty to fifty times more powerful than heroin
Prescription painkillers are powerful drugs that interfere with the nervous system’s transmission of the nerve signals we perceive as pain. Most painkillers also stimulate portions of the brain associated with pleasure. Thus, in addition to blocking pain, they produce a “high.”
The most powerful prescription painkillers are called opioids, which are opium-like compounds. They are manufactured to react on the nervous system in the same way as drugs derived from the opium poppy, like heroin. The most commonly abused opioid painkillers include OXYCODONE, hydrocodone, meperidine, hydromorphone and propoxyphene.
Oxycodone has the greatest potential for abuse and the greatest dangers. It is as powerful as heroin and affects the nervous system the same way. Oxycodone is sold under many trade names, such as Percodan, Endodan, Roxiprin, Percocet, Endocet, Roxicet and OxyContin. It comes in tablet form.
THE “HILLBILLY HEROIN it reacts on the nervous system like heroin or opium, some abusers are using one brand of oxycodone painkiller, OxyContin, as a substitute for, or supplement to, street opiates like heroin.
Armed robberies of pharmacies have occurred where the robber demanded only OxyContin, not cash. In some areas, particularly the Eastern United States, OxyContin has been the drug of greatest concern to law enforcement authorities.
OxyContin, widely known as “hillbilly heroin” because of its abuse in Appalachian communities, has emerged as a major crime problem in the US. In one county, it was estimated that addiction to this drug was behind 80% of the crime
Hydrocodone is used in combination with other chemicals and is available in prescription pain medications as tablets, capsules and syrups. Trade names include Anexsia, Dicodid, Hycodan, Hycomine, Lorcet, Lortab, Norco, Tussionex and Vicodin. Sales and production of this drug have increased significantly in recent years, as has its illicit use.
The ten warning signs to watch for if you think someone you know may be experiencing a dependency on these drugs:
1. Usage increase: increase of one’s dose over time, as a result of growing tolerant to the drug and needing more to get the same effect.
2. Change in personality: shifts in energy, mood, and concentration as a result of everyday responsibilities becoming secondary to the need for the drug.
3. Social withdrawal: withdrawal from family and friends.
4. Ongoing use: continued use of painkillers after the medical condition they were meant to relieve has improved.
5. Time spent on obtaining prescriptions: spending large amounts of time driving great distances and visiting multiple doctors to obtain the drugs.
6. Change in daily habits and appearance: decline in personal hygiene; change in sleeping and eating habits; constant cough, running nose and red, glazed eyes.
7. Neglects responsibilities: neglect of household chores and bills; calling in sick to school or work more often.
8. Increased sensitivity: normal sights, sounds and emotions becoming overly stimulating to the person; hallucinations.
9. Blackouts and forgetfulness: forgetting events that have taken place and experiencing blackouts.
10. Defensiveness: becoming defensive and lashing out in response to simple questions in an attempt to hide a drug dependency, if users feel their secret is being discovered.
- Fla. prescription database goes into operation (seattlepi.com)
- Because 25 Years for 25 Grams of Percocet Was Not Tough Enough (reason.com)
- Painkiller Abuse Can Lead to Heroin Use, Study Reveals (livescience.com)
- £75k of ‘hillbilly heroin’ seized (bbc.co.uk)