True story: A recovering addict tells of her childhood. She suffered migraines. At 13, she was prescribed OxyContin; by 15, she was crushing and snorting morphine in her bedroom, right under her parents’ noses.
This testimonial is shockingly common. According to a study by Michigan State University (MSU) researchers, midadolescence is the peak age for abusing prescription opioids. This is much earlier than what many experts believed, suggesting any prevention and awareness efforts need to be initiated in the tween years – 10 to 12 years old.
James C. Anthony is a professor in MSU’s Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics. He notes, “While much of the previous thinking was that misuse of these drugs emerged in the final year of high school and during the college-age years, we found that for adolescents the peak risk of starting to misuse these painkillers generally occurs earlier.”
According to The Detroit News, the misconception lies in the fact that although high school seniors and college youth can and do score opioids more readily, the younger teens’ access leads them to stronger and longer dependency, if not overdose and death.
Although the study doesn’t catalogue which younger and older teens are obtaining drugs from personal prescriptions, robbing the cabinet or street purchase, one researcher has a pretty good idea.
Study researcher Maria Parker suggests shortening the leash on prescriptions as a catch-all to limit availability by any means.
“One way to limit the circulation of painkillers is by limiting the amount prescribed,” Parker says. She adds that prescribing in small doses limits the chances for a slip in one’s supply to go unnoticed or extra rations to be sold. Clinicians could also more closely monitor youths prescribed an opioid.
The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) classifies drug potency and legality by schedules – the lowest being the most dangerous. Schedule II drugs like Adderall, oxycodone, Ritalin, Demerol, Dilaudid and Vicodin hold a high potential for abuse. The DEA says they potentially lead to extreme psychological or physical dependence.
Many states have set time or dosage limits to abate prescription drug abuse, but state and federal drug agents still see doctors postdating and presigning prescriptions. According to Medscape, federal law does not limit prescription quantities, nor are there expirations on Schedule II prescriptions.
Carmen McIntyre, M.D., is the chief medical officer for the Detroit Wayne Mental Health Authority. She says the mantle of prevention rests with the doctor. McIntyre emphasizes that a proactive physician can write a prescription so that the person can only get seven days of drugs at a time.
“I can try to make sure you never have enough to OD on,” she says.
For teens who are running out of control, either from prescription use that has escalated or experimentation that has spiraled into addiction, parents have options.
The Sovereign Health Group in Rancho San Diego is focused on adolescents aged 12-17. We are a nationwide leader in cutting-edge treatment and holistic modalities for rehabilitation from drug addiction – prescription or otherwise. Sovereign uses modern and alternative therapies for eating disorders, substance abuse and dual diagnosis of mental health and addiction. Call our 24/7 helpline for enrollment details.
Written by Sovereign Health Group writer Kristin Currin
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