Pubdate: Tue, 17 Oct 2006
Source: Cushing Daily Citizen (OK)
Copyright: 2006 Cushing Daily Citizen
Author: Jaclyn Houghton, CNHI News Service


Speakers, Task Force Members Share Mixed Opinions on Possible Legislation

OKLAHOMA CITY - Lahoma Horse would like to see Oklahoma legislators 
use some muscle to move cough syrup away from a minor's grasp.

"In Oklahoma, our safeguard should be legislation," said Horse, 
prevention specialist at the Wichita Mountains Prevention Network in 
Lawton, Okla. "As it is now, kids can go into a store and purchase 
large amounts of cough syrup."

Purchases, she said, that can be dangerous.

Horse works a lot with the American Indian population in Oklahoma and 
sees a problem of kids taking excess amounts of cough syrup to get high.

"A lot of these kids come from poverty and they don't have parents to 
tell them" about the risks, she said.

The risks of adolescents using a variety of products as drugs were 
examined at a legislative Task Force on Adolescent Substance Abuse 
and Misuse of Household Items meeting at the state capitol Tuesday.

The task force was created under Oklahoma House Bill 2485 to examine 
the prevalence of abuse and misuse of drugs and household items among 
Oklahoma adolescents and how to prevent these abuses. The group will 
present its findings and possibly make a recommendation on 
legislation by Jan. 1.

Sean Byrne, president of the Oklahoma Prevention Policy Alliance, 
presented the task force with information about how people are using 
home, garden and garage items to get high. He said he is always 
worried when he presents the types of products today's youth are 
using as drugs for fear that it would give them ideas of where to go.

But not providing examples could be a double-edged sword.

Byrne, who is also the executive director of a prevention resource 
center called PreventionWorkz based in Enid, Okla., wants people to 
stay on the lookout for growing drug trends.

He also wants to see legislation passed to set requirements on 
educating the public and, in some cases, requiring identification 
that a person is older than 18 when purchasing some over-the-counter 

A perception of low risk involved in using prescription medicine and 
over-the-counter medicine, and the ease of accessibility is why Sean 
Clarkin believes teens are using these drugs. Clarkin is the 
executive vice president for the Partnership for a Drug Free America.

He told members of the task force that one in four teens surveyed by 
the organization had used prescription medication to get high and one 
in 10 had used cough syrup for the same purpose. He said two in five 
teens said they believe prescription medications are safer to use 
than other drugs.

But using this medication in a way other than what it is prescribed 
for in normal doses is dangerous and becomes "a critical public 
health problem," Clarkin said.

He said he wants to see parents talking to their children about the 
risks involved in not only street drugs, like marijuana and 
methamphetamine, but also prescription medication, over-the-counter 
drugs and inhalants. The organization is running national 
advertisements to get parents to talk to their kids.

Byrne said these ads are not enough.

"Nationally run ads telling parents to talk to their kids is not 
going to help," he said.

It is one strategy, but a comprehensive program is needed. He would 
like to see legislation based on each drug, youth education programs 
and adult-only education programs so parents and educators can 
understand the drug trends and the signs of use for prevention and 
treatment purposes.

"My concern is, how many kids will have to die until we do 
something?" Byrne said.

He does not know of any deaths in Oklahoma related to these types of 
drugs, but said, "if there haven't been, there will be."

State retail representatives have concerns about potential legislation.

Darryl Fitzgerald, president and CEO of Homeland Stores based in 
Edmond, Okla., said he is afraid if there are restrictions put on 
people buying products like cough syrup it would affect access to 
consumers in rural areas. He does not want to see a consumer drive 
many miles away just to get medicine for a sick child.

The supermarket chain includes 45 stores, with many in rural areas. 
Just over half of the stores have pharmacies, said Fitzgerald, a 
member of the task force.

Byrne said Fitzgerald's position concerns and confuses him.

He said legislation would not be designed to hinder parents getting 
medicine, but "is about children buying medicine themselves."

Many convenience stores in Oklahoma will probably not carry certain 
over-the-counter medicines if there are restrictions placed on the 
products, said Vance McSpadden, executive vice president of the 
Oklahoma Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association.

Convenience store employees already have to card for alcohol and 
tobacco products and may not want to hassle with these medications, 
said McSpadden, also a member of the task force.

Horse said she has seen a growing trend of teens using these 
medications to get high in the community she serves and wants the 
problem solved. Teen use of cough medications to get high is not 
limited to low-income families. Cases have been reported among 
students in Oklahoma's more affluent high schools.

"To do nothing is a sin because," Horse said, "we have a power to get 
this legislation passed."
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