Combating teen prescription drug abuse

RAYMONDVILLE — Teenage use of prescription drugs appears to be on the rise.

Now, Communities Against Substance Abuse, or CASA, is urging residents to be aware of factors leading to prescription drug abuse.

“It has become increasingly popular,” Ashlyn Wall, a drug prevention specialist with CASA, said.

Every year, about 111,000 adolescents take pain killers for non-medical use, a Texas school survey shows.

Prescription drug abuse starts early.

By 14, many youths begin misusing prescription drugs, Wall stated.

The survey shows 18.5 percent of students between seventh and 12th grades have used prescription drugs while 13.6 percent took the drugs within a month of the survey.

“I definitely think adolescents are more willing to try prescription medications if given the opportunity,” Wall said.

In the Rio Grande Valley, some youths cross the border to buy prescription drugs in Mexican pharmacies, Elizabeth Urbina, CASA’s coordinator, said.

“Being border counties, the availability is definitely there,” Urbina said. “Having that easy access, a lot of people are going over there.”

But in the Valley, codeine cough syrup is the most commonly abused prescription drug.

Now, CASA is trying to dispel myths and “social norms” that can help lead to drug use, addiction and even death.

“Such medications are in a variety of drug classes such as opioids, stimulants, and depressants,” Wall stated. “The misuse of these prescription drugs has essentially become a gateway to later heroin use due to its cheaper price and easy street access. Approximately three out of four new heroin users misused prescription opioids prior to heroin.”

Every day, opioid overdoses kill 130 Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“The opioid epidemic has led to staggering statistics and many unfortunate deaths in our country but we can contribute to eliminating this problem by ensuring that medication is used as prescribed and is properly disposed of when no longer needed,” Wall stated.

In 2015, Texas health care providers wrote 58 opioid prescriptions per 100 people, totaling 15.9 million prescriptions, Wall stated.

A year later, she stated, 1,375 Texans died of opioid-related overdose deaths.

Since 2010, the number of heroin-related deaths has steadily increased, from 260 to 530 deaths in 2016, Wall stated.

Meanwhile, she stated, deaths linked to synthetic opioids — mainly fentanyl — rose from 156 in 2010 to 250 in 2016.

Many problems start at home.

“Growing up, many of us have been indirectly taught that it is acceptable to share medications with other family members who may have the same or seemingly similar illnesses,” Wall stated.

“However, the doctor considers a wide variety of factors when prescribing medication which allows them to determine the type of medication and dosage for that specific person. Therefore, sharing prescription drugs is dangerous and is considered as misuse and we must work to change that social norm.”

Too often, failure to properly follow instructions when taking prescription drugs leads to addiction, she stated.

“Another contributing factor to the crisis we have today is the incorrect belief that since something is prescribed by a doctor — that the use of it in any form, even incorrectly so, is safe,” Wall stated.

“There are many types of prescription drugs that are at a very high risk for addiction and if not taken carefully and as prescribed, can lead to many problems in the future.”

For help, call Wall at 956-232-2300.

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For help, call Ashlyn Wall, CASA drug prevention specialist, at 956-232-2300.