A high school student from Texas is highlighting the issue of prescription drug addiction among teenagers in a startling new documentary, but says that parents are indirectly causing the source of the problem.
Cyrus Stowe, 17, created the documentary "Out of Reach," which shows his fellow classmates popping pills on camera. Several of the students spoke about getting prescription medication from home by stealing painkillers, tranquilizers and stimulants that were prescribed to their parents.
"It doesn't look harmful, there's no needle and they have no idea what they're taking in a lot of cases," explained Stowe. "We'd go into the restroom and students right before a test would go into a stall, pop an Adderall, sometimes snort it, and trade more hard drugs like Oxycontin, Hydrocodone, and just take them as if it was vitamin C."
Many parents are unaware of the dangers of some of these medications and share them with their children in the event of an illness or injury. Medical experts say that most parents never tell their children about side effects or the potential for addiction before doling out the medication.
In some cases, prescription drug abuse can be fatal. Sherrie Rubin travels to schools across the country to warn teens and parents about the dangers of prescription drug abuse after her son, Aaron, accidentally overdosed at a friend’s house. The former high school football player now has permanent brain damage that has left him unable to walk or talk, in addition to requiring 24-hour care.
"The challenges that he and our family have to live with every day are insurmountable," said Rubin. “We need to educate ourselves so when your child is approached…they will have the proper knowledge to not take it. If one kid in the room listens and makes a good choice, they will have saved their family a tragic heartache."
Earlier this month, a study from the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found that illegal drug use among teenagers has dropped overall, with substance abuse issues declining from 8.9 percent of all teens to 5.2 percent. However, the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health noted that prescription medications are the most widely abused drugs among children ages 12 and 13. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also reported last June that within the last five years, drug overdoses have become among the top three killers of adolescents between the ages 15 and 19.
But for those teenagers who are already addicted, treatment options are highly expensive at best and unavailable at worst. There really aren't places for kids to go,” said Samuel Ball, president and CEO of CASA Columbia, an organization that researches addiction and treatments. "As a parent, you want your children to be treated in a highly reputable healthcare system that has [specialists] providing treatment that has been shown to be effective – kind of like what you would expect to see if your kid has cancer."
If you’re concerned about your child abusing prescription drugs, learn about the side effects and potential for addiction with each medication that is prescribed to either you or them. The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids notes that teenagers who are aware of the risks of drugs are 50 percent less likely to use them. You should also keep your medications in a secure place and periodically count the number of pills you have. It’s also important to set a good example by not sharing medications or taking a drug that you don’t have a prescription for.
Learn more about the dangers of prescription drug abuse.