Pubdate: Sun, 09 Dec 2007
Source: Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, VA)
Copyright: 2007 The Virginian-Pilot
Author: Kathy Snyder, Teen Correspondent


One night at a party, Bobby swallowed two Xanax and snorted two more.
Then he climbed behind the wheel and hit two mail boxes. Later that
night, while wandering around, he fell against a brick wall, severely
injuring his eye.

Bobby is one of the many teenagers these days who abuses prescription
drugs. He and the other teens in this story spoke on condition that
their last names be withheld.

Teenagers use drugs for various reasons, such as to concentrate
better, to feel numb or simply to just have fun and party with their

"I liked Xanax a lot when I did it," said Bobby, 18. "I had a lot of
fun with it."

And while teenagers for years have experimented with drugs such as
marijuana and cocaine, they are now making the abuse of prescription
drugs and over-the-counter medications part of their culture as well.
Though some teens may enjoy the drugs' effects for a while, their use
can come back to haunt them.

The Partnership for a Drug-Free America's annual tracking study says
one in five teens has abused prescription pain medication, stimulant
or tranquilizer.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the three
most-abused categories of drugs are opioids, which are used to treat
pain; central nervous system depressants, which are used to treat
anxiety and sleep disorders; and stimulants, which are used to treat
narcolepsy, ADHD and obesity.

Besides Xanax, Bobby said he has abused Oxycodone, OxyContin, Vicodin,
Percocet, Valium, Tylenol 3 and Adderall.

"Easy accessibility is the No. 1 thing," said Angela Wilson, a student
at Campbell University in central North Carolina. "More and more
adults are increasingly taking psychotropic medications. If Mom and
Dad are taking... Valium to manage their stress, then it's in the
medicine cabinet at home."

Wilson is studying to become a licensed professional counselor and is
participating in a yearlong internship at the Cardinal Clinic in

Wilson said there seems to be a perception that prescription drugs are
not as dangerous as illicit drugs.

A 2007 study by the Partnership for a Drug-Free America and the
MetLife Foundation found 40 percent of teens and 37 percent of parents
think teen abuse of prescription pain killers is safer than the abuse
of illicit street drugs.

Besides prescription drugs, teens are using over-the-counter cough and
cold medicines, such as Coricidin and Robitussin. Melissa, 15, took
one bottle of Robitussin and felt "instantly high."

"Every time you move your arm it would look like it was floating. It
was like your arms were going numb," she said.

To get a high from these cough and cold medicines, the abuser must
take much more than the prescribed amount. Teens sometimes drink an
entire bottle of Robitussin or take eight to 10 Coricidin pills.

Karen Franke, a local Rite Aid pharmacist, said users need to follow
the directions and use the medications properly. "Just because
something is over the counter doesn't mean it's safe," said Franke,
who has been a pharmacist for 15 years.

Rusty Payne, a spokesman for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration,
said the availability of the drugs is what's causing the abuse. "There
are not a ton of bad doctors out there, but some. They write bogus
prescriptions for people to get what they want." Some teens may steal
prescription pads from their doctors' offices and forge their own

Both Bobby and Melissa have sold prescriptions as well. "I sold Xanax
and Percocet," said Bobby, who was prescribed the Percocet after back
surgery. "I figured I would make some money."

Melissa, who is prescribed Adderall for ADHD, has sold her pills for
$2 apiece. She has also abused Ambien, a drug commonly used to treat
insomnia, and experienced hallucinations. "I saw, like, a safari. It
was kind of crazy."

While teens can feel good when abusing these drugs, the long-term
effects can be harmful and cause unpleasant side effects. If a teen
abuses these medications for a long time and then stops, withdrawal
symptoms can occur.

The drugs also can be addictive, whether as a physical or
psychological addiction. "The potential is there," said Sarah Keasey,
a registered nurse at Sentara Virginia Beach General Hospital.

Bobby eventually stopped abusing Xanax because he felt himself
becoming addicted to it. Melissa stopped using drugs because she got

"If they've quit, they learned the lesson: how dangerous it is to take
medicine that isn't prescribed to you," Keasey said. "They matured and
decided to do the right thing."

Katy Snyder, a senior at Princess Anne High School



Rusty Payne, a spokesman for the Drug Enforcement Administration, says
easy accessibility of prescription drugs contributes to their abuse.
Teens may steal prescriptions from their parents or even try to forge
their own prescriptions with a prescription pad stolen from their doctor.


The danger of abusing any kind of drug is addiction and potential
withdrawal symptoms. Many don't recognize that abusing prescription
drugs is as dangerous as abusing illicit drugs.
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