The misuse and Abuse of Prescription Drugs are on the rise in Pinellas County, the State of Florida and the Nation. According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, “Prescription drug abuse is the fastest-growing drug problem in the United States. Because prescription drugs are legal, they are easily accessible, often from a home medicine cabinet. Further, some individuals who abuse prescription drugs, particularly teens, believe these substances are safer than illicit drugs because they are prescribed by a healthcare professional and sold behind the counter”.
According to the 2008 Partnership for a Drug Free America’s Annual Tracking Study, 1 in 5 teens have abused a prescription pain medication and 1 in 5 teens report abusing prescription stimulants and tranquilizers. In a report released by SAMHSA in July of 2008, they state that the intentional misuse of prescription drugs is now only second to marijuana as the nation’s most prevalent drug problem.
In 2008, 15.7% of Pinellas County high school students and 3.4% of Pinellas County middle school students reported using Prescription Pain Relievers on at least one occasion in their lifetime, (Florida Youth Substance Abuse Survey). The Pinellas County Substance Use, Health, and Safety Survey reports in 2008 that 1.1% of 6th graders, 4.5% of 8th graders, 5.6% of 10th graders and 5.8% of 12th graders reported non-medical use of prescription drugs in the past 30-days. This is an increase in every grade from 2006.
Prescription Drugs, when not used in proper direction of a doctor, are dangerous and potentially lethal substances. In District 6, which is comprised of Pinellas and Pasco Counties, the Medical Examiner’s Annual Reports document that from 2001 to 2009, the cases of deceased persons with Hydrocodone found in toxicology reports rose from 54 to 115, an overall increase of 113.0%, Oxycodone rose from 61 to 294, an overall increase of 382.0% and Methadone rose from 37 to 143, an overall increase of 286.5%, whereas Heroin decreased from 32 to 9, an overall decrease of 71.9%. From 2003 to 2009, the cases with Alprazolam (Xanax) rose from 82 to 267, an overall increase of 225.6%. District 6 Medical Examiner’s data also shows that we have the highest amounts of six out of the seven prescription drugs tested for in toxicology reports by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, (alprazolam, oxycodone, hydrocodone (tie), propoxyphene (tie), methadone, morphine).
Removing unwanted or unused prescription drugs from the home is an effective strategy to help keep our youth safe. Data from the 2009 Partnership/ METLIFE Foundation Attitude Tracking Study (PATS) reports that 63% of teens believe prescription drugs are easy to get from their parent’s medicine cabinet, up significantly from 56% just last year. LiveFree! in partnership with the Pinellas Juvenile Assessment Center (PJAC) and the Juvenile Addiction Receiving Facility (JARF) have been implementing a survey asking youth about their prescription drug use. 74.1% of youth surveyed at the JARF and 17.7% of youth surveyed at the PJAC report misusing prescription drugs on at least one occasion in their lifetime.
To help combat the misuse and abuse of prescription drugs in our community, you can:
- Carefully monitor prescription drugs in the home;
- If you have unused or expired prescription drugs, properly dispose of them at a law enforcement-sponsored take-back event in your community;
- Support efforts to educate physicians about opiate painkiller prescribing;
- Share information about the dangers of prescription drug abuse with your family, friends, and members of the public.
The next Operation Medicine Cabinet- a prescription drug take back day- will occur on August 21, 2010 with 8 locations throughout Pinellas County