No one can argue that there isn’t an epidemic of prescription drug abuse in this country. We see the stories in newspapers across the nation every week. But what is perhaps startling for many are the statistics showing that this epidemic is most prevalent among people ages eighteen to twenty-five. In New Jersey the problem has become so large that The Task Force on Heroin and Other Opiate Use by New Jersey’s Youth and Young Adults was established last April. According to an article by Mary Lynn Schiavi on mycentraljersey.com, “The task force currently is developing recommendations based on a series of public hearings that concluded in October.” Schiavi goes on to say that:
“While there are many reasons that teens and young adults take the risks associated with drug use, the resounding reason for the current crisis of heroin and prescription opiate addiction appears to be related to a systemic problem in American culture, according to a number of experts around the state….“From a macro perspective, we live in a culture where medicine, in the form of a pill, is an accepted source of quick relief,” said John Hulick, executive director of the Governor’s Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse….Hulick and others working in the field agree that the availability and lack of understanding about the highly addictive nature of prescription pain killers has set the stage for disaster.”
Part of what makes the fight against this epidemic a particularly difficult one, is that these drugs often initially make their way into the hands of teens and young adults quite easily. Perhaps they were prescribed the medications for a sports related injury, or perhaps they see their parents taking the medications to manage pain after illness or surgery. “According to Brenda Pateman, Somerset County coordinator for Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention Services, many young people begin with abusing pharmaceuticals that they find in their medicine cabinets at home or purchase on the streets. Then they move on to heroin, which she said has become extremely available, cheap and pure.” Because of this, we once again urge doctors to suggest alternate therapies for pain management to appropriate patients, in this way stemming the flooding of these highly addictive medications into homes where they become available to anyone who may open the medicine cabinet.