Prescription pills may becoming more popular than pot or other street drugs among young people, according to this CNN story. “I wouldn’t be surprised if right now at this point in time, there are more kids abusing prescription drugs than abusing marijuana,” said Joseph A. Califano Jr., chairman and president of CASA, the National Center on Alcohol and Substance Abuse at Columbia University.
The article was prompted by the arrest on Wednesday of Al Gore III, son of the former Vice President. Gore was charged with possession of Vicodin, Xanax, Valium and Adderall as well as marijuana.
According to a CASA report, between 1993 and 2005 the proportion of college students abusing Vicodin and other opiods went up 343 percent, about 240,000 individuals. The numbers increased 450 percent, or by 170,000 students, for tranquilizers such as Xanax and Valium, and 93 percent, or 225,000 students, for stimulants, including Adderall.
Apparently, pills are easy for kids to get. They can purchase them online, steal them from their parent’s medicine cabinet, or get them from other kids who have access. Adderall, for example, is prescribed to millions of young people for Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, according to the article.
This trend resonates with an experience I had a few months ago when I was picking up my son from preschool, which was located at our neighborhood high school. It was lunch time and the high school kids were walking back to the building. I overheard a conversation among a bunch of boys that went something like this:
Kid Telling the Story: I smoked the whole thing because so-and-so said he wasn’t smoking because the last time he thought he was having a heart attack.
Others: Ha, ha, ha.
Me: Ah, kids still smoking dope. Just like when I was in high school.
Kid Telling the Story: And I also had a Vicodin and Dude, I was chillin…
Others: Ha, ha, ha.
Me: Agh! Pills? Yikes. Kids didn’t pop pills when I was in high school. [Generation gap feeling sets in. Walk away quickly.]
Back to the CNN article. It says that one reason kids like pills is because they perceive them to be safer. There’s no dealing with unsavory characters to score the weed and, well, of course they’re safe, they’re made by the pharmaceutical industry.
But I don’t have to tell you, these medicines are not necessarily safe. Vicodin is notoriously addictive. And Ritalin or its generic name, Methylphenidate, is on the nation’s Drug Enforcement Agency’s drugs of concern list.
Well, I knew it would come to this eventually. Pretty soon I’ll be one of those grandpa-types telling my kids how back in my day we had to go to the library and read actual books to do research for school and afterwards, there were no fancy, high tech drugs for us. Just some low-grade weed and a can of whipped cream.