Teens on Painkillers

in Opinion by

American opioid use skyrocketed within the last year, with no demographic left unaffected. The American Physical Therapy Association reports in 2016 more than 224 million prescriptions  for opioids were written, resulting in 11 million Americans abusing opioids. Unlike illegal vices traded in covert locations, opioid addictions can originate in the fluorescently lit halls of a CVS or Walgreens.

The United States Office of Adolescent Health reports that in 2016, the most recently calculated statistic, 3.6 percent of children aged 12 to 17 were misusing opioids, including both prescription drugs and heroin. It’s difficult to understand the pervasiveness of teen opioid use just by the percentage. This conservative percentage means that roughly 902,246 teens across the country are fighting against addictive drugs that have the capability to kill. Add in 18-year-olds to the equation and the number of misusers adds up to well over a million.

Opioids are narcotics that are legally prescribed for pain relief because opioid receptors regulate the pain and reward system in the body. The drugs are used illegally for recreational purposes. The drug can induce feelings of euphoria. The most popular prescribed opioids are Vicodin, Percocet and OxyContin, while the most popular illegal version is heroin.

Teen opioid misusers have the tendency to take opioids with a cocktail of other drugs, putting their lives in jeopardy. The National Institute of Health reports that 7 out of 10 teen opioid misusers use them in combination with other substances; the study named marijuana, cocaine and amphetamines. This puts them at increased risk of overdose that can possibly end in incarceration in areas with strict law enforcement.

At the root of the teen opioid problem is misinformation. Teenagers harbor the belief that prescription drugs are inherently safer than street drugs. The truth is that the use of opioids by adolescents is not well documented, but abusing the drugs is inarguably dangerous. In adults, drug overdoses outpaced firearm related deaths and vehicle related deaths according to the Center on Addiction. In 66 percent of those cases, the person used some type of opioid. Imagine the impact these killer drugs have on undeveloped, premature minds and bodies.

The good news is, you can do something. Look at your friend’s behavior. Are they spending more time alone, sleeping at odd hours, neglecting responsibilities , appearing disoriented, slurring speech or losing weight? These are indicators of opioid use. Reach out to your classmates and don’t be afraid to start caring conversations. You can end up saving someone’s life. If you are experiencing addiction, please call one of the hotlines listed below and talk to a parent, teacher or trusted friend.

If you or someone you know is experiencing addiction, call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Hotline (1-800-662-HELP) or the American Addiction Drug Abuse Hotline (1-877-959-1059).

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