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Generation Rx: a new war against drugs


Last updated 1/10/2008 at Noon

National surveys administered to teens in 2007 have shown that prescription drug abuse is up, while alcohol and marijuana use is down.

The abuse of prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs is increasing at an alarming rate and based on the current trend among young people, a new term has been coined: Generation Rx.

Teens of all ages are easily getting their hands on Adderall, Valium and a host of pain medications, including Oxycotin.

“Oxycotin is very addictive and it’s widely distributed these days,” said Matthew Gissen, chairman of Keep Kids Drug Free. “I think that the abuse of prescription drugs has been an epidemic for many years.”

Statistics from Partnership for a Drug Free America reveal that one in five teens confessed to misusing prescription drugs and one in ten has abused cough medicine.

“Many of the children [take OTC and prescription drugs] for various reasons,” explained Gissen. Peer pressure, boredom and pressure to perform well are only a handful of reasons why teens take these drugs.

“Prescription drugs are readily available; all kids have to do is go into a bathroom in their home and they will find something to take,” he said. “They don’t need to go out into the street and buy it.”

Sadly, there is a perception out there among kids who think prescription drugs are not nearly as harmful as street drugs. This is viewpoint is wrong.

“A youngster’s body is not developed to take these prescription drugs; abuse of those drugs could actually deter the developmental stages of growth,” said Gissen. And at times, OTC and prescription drugs act as a stepping stone to other street drugs uses.

Historically, Gissen says, 12.5 years of age is the average beginning time of drug abuse. “It is not uncommon to see 11-year-olds taking drugs.”

If parents have prescription medications at home, Gissen recommends being aware of how much there is and not leaving them readily available. “Prescription drugs are very, very addictive.”

Sally Wolf, PhD, views Generation Rx as being the shift from treating illness to developing healthy lives with drugs. Medications are easily available to teens because the medical field is rapidly prescribing drugs.

“Drugs are a consumer product and there are drugs for everything now,” said Wolf. “Everyone is stressed and everyone is self-medicating.” Some individuals have the opinion that a pill is the cure-all for any ailment, large or small.

Because of this, it’s not uncommon for a teen to take a drug prescribed to a parent. Some teens are taking non-prescribed ADHD medication to help them focus or to gain an edge.

There doesn’t seem to be a stigma attached to prescription drugs, explained Wolf. “Generation Rx is very insidious; kids are looking to medication for a sense of wellness and not to treat an ailment.”

Communicate with your kids, encourages Wolf. Have family nights. Be in touch with your kids. “A lot of people you talk to don’t even eat together with their family.”

Being observant of your child is critical, because it gives the parent an edge in recognizing any slight personality changes, such as lack of engagement or loss of interest in activities. “Parents must have awareness of these things,” explained Wolf.

If medication must be kept in the household, Wolf recommends that it be stored where it is safe and not in a high-traffic area. And most of all, she advises communication within the family – for parents to be ‘hands on.’

“Don’t shut down the communication,” she said.

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