Beginning with advertising during this year's Super Bowl, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy is launching its first major effort to educate parents about teen prescription drug abuse. More than 2 million American kids are abusing prescription drugs, and parents need to wise up, step in, and get their teens into treatment if they need it. But the question remains: Who's getting the parents into treatment? Because for every teen that needs drug detox, there are probably a dozen adults who need it just as badly, or worse.
The message is this: The problem doesn't just concern 2 million kids who may need detox, and it's not just about illegal prescription drug abuse. We need to step back and see the big prescription drug picture.
Tens of millions of people of all ages swallow millions of dollars worth of toxic, addictive and debilitating prescription drugs every day. If everyone suffering from the dependencies, addictions and side effects common with many prescription drugs came knocking at the doors of America's drug detox centers tomorrow, we'd have the biggest traffic jam this country has ever seen. And remember, we're talking about people taking legal, doctor-ordered prescription drugs, just as directed, who develop very real, very dangerous problems.
Many prescription drugs, in spite of the help they offer people suffering from pain and illness, have created an ugly and dangerous situation. Painkillers, antidepressants, tranquilizers and stimulants - the list of drugs in just these four classes alone would fill several pages - all carry the threat of dependence, either physical, psychological, or both. In addition to dependence, the list of their side effects and withdrawal symptoms would fill hundreds of pages, and they can create havoc for anyone trying to quit taking them without a medically supervised drug detox.
Most Americans don't realize how many people arrive at drug detox centers with prescription drug problems who have not been abusing their prescriptions. These people have been taking their medications exactly as prescribed. But because of the nature of the drug and the individual's own DNA and metabolism, they have developed dangerous dependencies and addictions to prescription drugs that require medical drug detox if they want to get off them safely.
A national prescription drug abuse public awareness campaign targeting parents and teens and tied to the Super Bowl is certainly a welcome idea. But it's really only a start. The depressing big picture won't be part of the $30-million White House ad campaign, and the need for a drug detox program by millions and millions of people will still exist.
Meanwhile, we can all do our part by keeping our prescription drugs carefully locked away so others - like teenagers - don't steal them and get themselves into trouble. And if you or someone you know is in trouble with prescription drugs, please call a medical drug detox program specialist for expert help about safely dealing with the problem.
Rod MacTaggart is a Florida-based freelance writer who contributes articles on health.