20 December 2005

What's the Buzz?

I am continually surprised by the range of prescription meds my students have had access to throughout their young years. I tend to have "goody two-shoes" kinds of kids, so their talk of Vicodin, Percocet, Oxycontin, and more is a little hair raising. It means that these pills were prescribed for them---they didn't steal them out of their parents medicine cabinet. (And if they did, they wouldn't be foolish enough to brag about it in class.)

Are the results of a recent government survey of teens about drug use any surprise? Rates of smoking (both tobacco and marijuana) are down. The use of inhalants and steroids has decreased. But Oxycontin and its kin? They're on the rise.

I have no doubt that many teens across the U.S. are raiding family medicine chests to find prescription painkillers. I have plenty of Percocet leftover from my post-surgery days last year. How many? I don't know. If one or two went missing, I wouldn't be any the wiser. My guess is that a lot of parents out there could be in the same boat.

I have to wonder about how prescriptions for painkillers are determined. "Pain" is such a relative thing. If a doctor is reasonably convinced that a patient is suffering (or will be following a surgery), then why wouldn't s/he do something to ease the pain? How do you know what "enough" painkiller looks like? Do doctors tend to overprescribe a few pills each time...just in case? And you can't return the leftovers...and flushing them isn't desirable. Perhaps we need more alternatives to leaving them in the medicine cabinet.

But hey, maybe you don't really need a prescription. All you need is a credit card. While most teens lack this sort of access, it still doesn't preclude them from googling for "no prescription oxycontin" and obtaining what they (or friends) want.

Beyond all this, alcohol is still the primary drug of choice for teens. This is not news. What I find interesting, though, is that teens are turning more and more to depressants. Is today's digital world so overstimulating that the only way to tune out is to tune in to something that numbs the neurons?


Anonymous said...

Why is flushing them not desirable?

The Science Goddess said...

Things can (and do) end up in the water supply---for us and for organisms out in the environment. It can be very disruptive to natural processes.