I note, once again, another American President has declared a new war on drugs (opioids) promising once and for all elimination of the problem. I, for one, having spent all those years in the ER medical services shall retain my skepticism unless and until I am proven wrong. I am convinced we are not only starting with the wrong focus but are headed in an entirely incorrect direction.
Substance abuse is defined as the improper use of any substance to the extent that it causes physical, mental or emotional damage either temporary or permanent and sometimes from a single ingestion. Abused substances can be legal or illegal beginning with commonly available and socially acceptable alcohol and over the counter medications, household chemicals and prescription drugs. With children, there are two initiators. The first is the inherent curiosity and sense of adventure in combination with the “challenge” from a more socially advanced peer. In the primary stage of misuse there is an initial positive gain from the emotional excitement of the risk in combination with the altered mental status from the chemical itself. It starts with the BORED fifth grader trying inhalants with friends for the group high or the stressed teen borrowing mom’s amphetamine for a pre exam all nighter cram session.
Your children do not walk in to the local pharmacy for scripts nor can they access the beer and liquor outlets so you have to ask what is their source? The holy grail for children is the in home bathroom medicine cabinet, possibly the unlocked liquor closet in the family room in almost 100 percent of scenarios although there is a new issue trending with more and more medications becoming available by on-line ordering.
While illicit substance use has decreased slightly over the last decade, prescription drug deaths in teens has doubled every five years since the millennium. Combining medications with alcohol for enhanced response is common practice in high school populations. For the medical community in the ER and the follow on psychological services several glaring facts are staring us down.
50 percent of teens believe prescription medications are safer
80 percent of illicit use is incorrectly identified by the user
50 percent of teens believe taking an over the counter (OTC) cough meds is not risky
This is NOT a back alley problem. It’s in YOUR HOME
The 2017 teen is facing a drug landscape that did not exist for previous generations . I’ve painted a deliberately disturbing picture where we are. This is an obviously complex subject and cannot be addressed in a single column but there are clues to look for to determine if there may be a problem in your home. Is your child?…
- Withdrawn, moody, hostile, overreacting to criticism
- Grades and school attendance sliding
- Change in eating and sleeping patterns
- Lies, steals and needs money for vague reasons
- Persistent eye and nasal symptoms
Do you see any or all of the above in your child? The first step in any scenario is awareness that there is a problem. Solutions can then follow.
Dr. David Carll