Wednesday, March 07, 2007

A Prescription for Death

Anna Nicole Smith is found dead in Florida and a country is obsessed. What or who killed her? Who’s her baby’s father? Where will Anna Nicole be buried?

I’ll leave the debate about these issues to others. I want to talk about something said by Police Chief Charlie Tiger in Seminole, Florida. He said Smith’s hotel room contained “no illegal drugs, only prescription drugs.”

The way I read Chief Tiger’s remark, prescription medicine is somehow safer – or more acceptable – than so-called street drugs. And this is just what so many kids think, according to a survey by Partnership for a Drug-Free America.

Consider their findings:

• Nearly 40 percent of teens say they have close friends who’ve abused prescription painkillers.

• Teens say that one reason for the rise in abuse of prescription drugs is that they’re easy to get – specifically, from their own medicine cabinets at home.

• Nearly half of all teens believe that using prescription medications to get high is much safer than using street drugs.

It doesn’t matter whether you get the mood-altering drugs from a dealer or from a medicine cabinet. If you misuse them, they can change how your brain functions. You can get addicted. You can die.

I’m all for pain medication when it’s properly used. Two years ago, I ruptured a disc in my back. I couldn’t get the Vicodine® prescribed by my doctor into my system fast enough. Fortunately, the pain subsided within a day, and I stopped taking the pills. But when I was using Vicodine®, I wondered why anyone would take it for fun. I hated the side effects. (I’ll spare you the details.)

So, when you talk with your kids about drugs, please tell them this:

When a doctor prescribes a drug, he or she has decided that the possible benefits of taking the medicine outweigh the risks. But there’s nothing safe about taking drugs that are prescribed for someone else. And using drugs in ways a doctor didn’t prescribe is dangerous.

If we must continue to talk about Anna Nicole Smith, please use the speculation around her unnecessary death as an opportunity to talk about the physical and emotional dangers of both street and prescription drug abuse.

Resources
Drugs: True Stories
Words Can Work: When Talking About Drugs

Related Issues and Answers columns
Cocaine and addiction
Cocaine’s effect on the body
Crystal meth
Marijuana
Prescription drugs

Related columns for young people

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