An alarming trend Our teens in jeopardy By Arturo Gonzalez, M.D.
As teenagers, we were exposed to cigarettes,
alcohol and we probably knew of someone who smoked marijuana. Their harmful effects are well-documented and kids are made aware of the related dangers at an early age. Sadly, today’s teens and young adults are also experimenting with another type of drug that can be addictive and have deadly consequences – prescription medicine. It’s a frightening fact that there are more Americans who die from drug overdoses than in car crashes, and this increasing trend is driven by prescription painkiller abuse. Research shows that the 12- and 13-year-old kids’ drug of choice is prescription medication. Their faulty reasoning for experimenting with these drugs includes such cavalier statements as “they are legal and prescribed by doctors, so I should be okay.” We’ve heard this far too often from our patients. Let me share one revealing conversation I had with a 14-year-old boy who came in for a scheduled annual physical. (By the way, these routine exams provide the best opportunity for pediatricians to have critical discussions on the issues of potential substance abuse, sexual activity and depression, as well as trouble at school or in the home environment.) As usual, I asked permission from his parents to have this conversation with their son and then requested privacy with my patient, not only to examine him for a typical wellcheck, but to discuss any personal issues he wanted to discuss without his parents present. I asked him if he was experimenting with drugs? He said, “Yes, do you want me to list them all? Marijuana, cocaine, black tar heroin, Ecstasy, Adderall, mushrooms and Vicodin,” indicating that two of these were prescription medications obtained from home or school. He shared that he had been using drugs since the age of 12 and then pleaded with me to help him stop. He said, “I don’t want to do this anymore, I need help.”
With his permission, we discussed this revelation and plea for help with his parents. We were all shocked by the revelation and his parents were also angry, disappointed and disbelieving. But I helped them understand that this was a cry for help and, while we can’t undo the past, we can get him help now. The result of treatment and support helped this young man stay clean and move onto college and potential great success. Now this is an exceptional case of substance abuse that, with intervention, had a positive outcome. latinopm.com
¡ April 2013!
Latino Perspectives Magazine
Magazine focused on the Arizona Latino Market