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The Opium of the Masses Now in the Family Medicine Cabinet

At a meeting of the Teton County Board of Health law enforcement, social workers and health care providers emphasized that prescription pain medicine has joined alcohol and marijuana as the top three drugs of choice for adolescents and adults. Ed Wigg, the Curran-Seeley Foundation’s executive director stated: “The medicine cabinet is the source.” No doubt much alcohol comes from the family liquor cabinet. So it too is part of this home-grown method of dealing with stress, tension and pain. But for those seeking treatment for addiction it is often reported that prescription medications are their go-to drug of choice.

And in further proof of the above consider the words of Dr. Brent Blue: “Most of the drugs are obtained legally” from others with valid prescriptions. With all the sports injuries, such as ACL tears and broken bones that occur there are plenty of drugs from which small amounts can be taken and never noticed. How often do most of us actually count the number of pills? There is a hesitancy and a certain “we’re all responsible adults” attitude where having more pain pills is better than having too few. When we feel the first pain we want it stopped. And even the thought of having to “endure” pain may cause us to “be proactive.”

Once the pills are obtained they may be exchanged between other friends and acquaintances at “fish bowl” or “skittles” parties. At these parties everything is mixed and then distributed in bowls. The users then pop a handful or two or three, wash it down with whiskey or beer, “relax and float downstream” and see what happens next.

Unfortunately what happens next is drug poisoning. Dr. Travis Riddell, who is Teton County’s public health officer and a pediatrician points out that “In 2012, 39 patients were admitted to the hospital because of prescription drug poisoning. Sixteen of them required inpatient care. That amounts to about 0.5 percent of all patients who stayed overnight at St. John’s in 2012, which Riddell said was significant. Lt. Cole Nethercott of the Jackson Police Department also notes that: “It’s something we’re finding more prevalent with DUIs: They’re mixing alcohol with the drugs.”

Sadly this is not a problem with tragic results limited to Wyoming. Nationally a study by the Partnership at Drugfree.org and MetLife Foundation reveals that 25 percent of teenagers report they have abused prescription drugs. It was 18 percent in 2008. Additionally, 16 percent of teens said they had misused pain relievers at least once.

The exercise of wisdom, discretion and a vigilant attitude to make sure pain medications are used responsibly by the patient is a priority. If it is unnecessary to use all the pills find a safe method to dispose of them. Contact authorities or come together with others and begin a method. Love will find the proper means.

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