Town hall meeting focuses on teen drug use awareness

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By The Staff

Campbellsville/Taylor County Anti-Drug Coalition co-chairs Karen Hayes and Rhonda Parker along with Cathy Williams of Adanta Regional Prevention Center hosted a town hall meeting recently.

The event, which took place at the Taylor County Cooperative Extension Office, focused on "the highs and lows of prescription painkillers and over the counter cough and cold medicines."

David Tucker, a narcotics investigator with the Campbellsville Police Department, was the guest speaker.

Highlights from Tucker's presentation included research from the Office of National Drug Control Policy, which stated in a Feb. 14 press release that, "New abusers of prescription drugs have caught up with new users of marijuana. Pain relievers, such as oxycontin and vicodin, are the most commonly abused prescription drugs by teens. One-third of all new abusers of prescription drugs were 12-17-year-olds and prescription drugs are the drug of choice among 12- and 13-year-olds."

According to the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University in July 2005, from 1992 to 2003, the 15.1 million Americans abusing controlled prescription drugs exceeded the combined number abusing cocaine (5.9 million), hallucinogens (4.0 million), inhalants (2.1 million) and heroin (.3 million).

The 2005 Partnership Attitude Tracking Study on Teen Drug Abuse, The Partnership for a Drug-Free America, May 16, 2006, gave the following statistics: 62 percent of teens say prescription pain relievers are easy to get from parents' medicine cabinets. Fifty-two percent of teens say prescription pain relievers are available anywhere; and 29 percent of teens believe prescription pain relievers are not addictive.

Williams offered insight on the cough medicine abuse subculture. There are more than 100 over-the-counter medicines that contain DXM, either as the only active ingredient or in a combination with other ingredients. Examples are Alka-Seltzer, Dimetapp DM, Mucinex DM, and certain Robitussin and Sudafed cough medicines, just to name a few.

Popular expressions for abusing OTC cough medicines are "robo-tripping, dex-ing, robo-fizzing (mixing the cough syrup with soda), smurfing (buying cough medicines from multiple retail stores) and skittling." They can also purchase the raw unfinished DXM ingredient in bulk over the Internet. Users are sometimes called "syrup heads" or "robotards."

One of the most worrisome party activities kids participate in is called "pharming." They collect pills and DXM containing medicines and make what they call a "trail mix." They have parties and kids will randomly take handfuls of pills not knowing what they are ingesting and oblivious to the consequences.

Parents are encouraged to talk to their kids. Let them know you oppose all illicit drug use. Monitor their behavior. Check up on them and see if they are where they say they are. Know who their friends are. Keep your medications out of reach and discard old prescriptions. If you have alcohol in your home, make a note of the levels in each bottle. Monitor the Web sites your kids visit on the Internet. There are Internet pharmacies that will sell to anyone.

Some signs of abuse include slurred speech, staggering walk, sweating, nausea, vomiting, numbness of extremities, drowsiness, skipping classes or not doing well at school, unusual odors on clothes or in their room, lack of cooperation, physical changes (red eyes, runny nose), borrowing money often or suddenly having extra cash, significant mood changes, loss of interest in personal appearance, change in friends and heightened secrecy about actions or possessions.

If you suspect your child is abusing drugs, contact a local and trusted substance abuse prevention or intervention professional, your pediatrician, family doctor, community coalition leader or poison control hotline.