Pubdate: Sun, 25 May 2014
Source: Houston Chronicle (TX)
Copyright: 2014 Houston Chronicle Publishing Company Division, Hearst Newspaper


Let's End Hyperbolic Warnings and Focus on Actual Threats - Like 
Prescription Pills.

Since its inception, the war on drugs has essentially been based on 
fear-mongering to children. Drugs will ruin your life! Buying drugs 
gives money to terrorists! One puff of a joint, a lifetime of consequences!

All these warnings have done little to reduce drug use, but they have 
instilled a deep sense of cynicism in far too many kids. With changes 
in drug laws across the country, perhaps it is time we started to 
tell children the truth: No one is going to die from overdosing on 
marijuana. Prescription painkillers are a different story.

In a story widely reported across Houston last week, an Aldine ISD 
senior was found dead in a hotel room after prom. All the facts 
aren't in yet, but signs point to overdosing on a mix of hydrocodone 
and alcohol ("Texts from girl's prom date hint she may have 
overdosed," Page B1, Tuesday).

A sad tale, but in the grand view she may have become just another 
statistic. According to the Centers for Disease Control and 
Prevention, drug overdose deaths have more than tripled since 1990. 
In 2010, 22,134 people in the United States died from a prescription 
drug overdose, with about 75 percent of those related to opiod 
painkillers such as oxycodone, hydrocodone and methadone. That makes 
prescription pills one of the leading causes of death in the United 
States, killing more people than all illegal drugs combined. And for 
every death from painkillers, there are about 32 visits to the 
emergency room for misuse or abuse.

The cold, hard fact is that prescription pills are dangerous, and 
kids aren't necessarily the ones at fault when they end up in the 
wrong hands. After all, they're not the ones asking for them or 
prescribing them.

A growing baby boomer population, according to a recent study in 
Medical Care, has doctors handing out more prescription pills, 
especially painkillers. A burden falls on responsible adults and 
doctors to limit the use of these potentially deadly pills. But kids 
also have to be aware of the danger they face, too.

Yet it is all too easy for kids to ignore these warnings amidst the 
usual cacophony of moral panic aimed in their direction.

One week, parents are worried about kids putting Chapstick on their 
eyelids. The next week, an invented story about alcohol-soaked 
tampons. For decades, marijuana was literally treated as the devil's 
weed. All the adult overreactions blend together like the trombone 
voice of Charlie Brown's teacher. Kids can see through nonsense as 
well as anyone else, and learn to tune it out.

On the other hand, when anti-drug organizations make specific, 
rational arguments, kids listen.

Years of fact-based warnings about tobacco's carcinogenic properties 
- - not to mention the wrinkles, addiction and expense - have resulted 
in sharp declines in teenage smoking, which is now at an all-time 
low. To put things in perspective, in 1996, more than 10 percent of 
eighth-grade students reported daily use of cigarettes. That number 
plummeted to less than 2 percent by 2012. For high school seniors, 
that number dropped from more than 22 percent to less than 10 
percent. In fact, fewer teenagers smoke cigarettes today than use marijuana.

Facts get results; hyperbole gets mocked.

If we really care about keeping kids safe, anti-drug groups should 
make similar, fact-based arguments about other deadly drugs. There 
are plenty of reasons kids - and many adults - shouldn't smoke 
marijuana. But pills are a real danger. The high isn't good enough, 
and consequences can be deadly.

It is time to stop fear-mongering and instead start telling the truth.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom