2009-02-12 / Health & Wellness

Program to discuss teen abuse of Rx drugs

By Stephanie Bertholdo bertholdo@theacorn.com

Today's teens are not as threatened by the drug dealers on every corner as they are by their parent's medicine cabinets, according to a representative of Narconon, the nonprofit drug rehabilitation and education program.

Tony Bylsma, a certified chemical dependency counselor and director of the Narconon Drug Prevention and Education Program of Southern California, will kick off a 2009 RAP (Resolve and Problem Solve) educational series on Wed., Feb. 18 in the Calabasas High School library.

"Prescription painkillers and some types of anti-anxiety drugs are being passed around, traded and abused in schools, playgrounds and parties across the country," Bylsma said.

Bylsma listed a variety of drugs often found in home medicine cabinets. Painkillers like Oxycontin and Vicodin, muscle relaxants and anti-anxiety drugs, including Valium and Xanax, and stimulants such as Ritalin are the most often abused, Bylsma said.

"Leftover pills in the medicine cabinet can become a windfall for a young person looking to get high or make a little extra cash at school," Bylsma said. "Many teens who wouldn't touch illicit drugs might abuse prescription drugs because they seem to be a safe way to get high and they are so readily available."

Prescription medications are only safe when taken as prescribed and in short periods of time.

As an example of how prescription drugs are abused, Bylsma said a teenager might take Oxycontin or Vicodin to get high, but create a lethal cocktail when they mix Valium or Xanax to "mellow it out a bit." They may even take sleeping pills when they get home from a party to help them sleep, or buy some Ritalin, a common medication for people with attention deficit disorder, to stay alert at a party.

"This is a widespread activity that screams of a lack of adequate drug awareness instruction," Bylsma said.

Bylsma said that while combining drugs is risky, increasing tolerance to the medications encourages users to take more drugs to get the same effect, which can be deadly.

"Eventually, to achieve any pleasurable effects, dangerously high doses are needed," Bylsma said. The drugs then cloud thinking, which makes the possibility of taking deadly amounts of drugs more likely. "This combination of higher doses and poorer judgment results in the soaring numbers of overdoses seen in the last decade from prescription drugs," he said.

The parent education program was launched by the school's health clerk, Joey Levin, in 2007 to help parents face the myriad issues facing teens.

The program will start at 7 p.m. in the school's library. There is no charge to attend the meeting, but only adults will be allowed to participate.

For further information, contact Joey Levin at (818) 222- 7177, ext. 223.

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