Why we deny prescription drug abuse
Nonmedical use of prescription drugs is on the rise. Students are at risk for abuse and addiction of these drugs, even in Utah County.
Full-time college students are twice as likely to abuse prescription medications than those not enrolled in the same age group, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.
Utah is no exception, even within our quest to perfection.
According to an opinion piece by R. Gil Kerlikowske, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, published in the Salt Lake Tribune, nine counties of Utah’s 29 have higher rates of drug fatalities than the national average. Ten percent of the 2,086 drug fatalities in Utah occurred by overdosing on pharmaceutical drugs.
Although Utah County is below the national average for drug deaths, heroin use has doubled in the last five years. What is concerning is that prescription drugs are often a precursor to heroin use.
Particular to Utah is the justification that these drugs are not against the LDS church’s Word of Wisdom, a strict code of health, and therefore not prohibited, per se. What’s more is that family and friends take them and have them in their homes, which may be what make the drugs alluring – they are not seen as a threat and they are easy to get.
According to the ATTC Network, a substance abuse treatment developer, 40 percent of adolescents and young adults have a false security about prescription drugs and think they are safer to use than illicit drugs.
Seventy percent of the people who are abusing these drugs say that they obtained them from a friend or relative, and only 4.3 percent actually bought them from a drug dealer.
Although these drugs are more widely available, they should not be seen as a safe way to get high. Many of these drugs contain identical base ingredients found in street drugs and are not exempt from potential addiction and the side effects of street drugs. They are just disguised in the façade of the familiar medicinal pill.
It is available and we are not educated about its harms.
As students fall into the age bracket which most abuses prescription drugs, it is concerning that in the spring 2010 American College Heath Association’s survey of college students, 71.9 percent of them responded that they were not interested in receiving information from their college or university about alcohol or other drug use.
During a time when young adults are trying to transition between their dependence upon parents to their independence, they choose to be ignorant of the dangers of substance abuse.
The NSDUH report said, “Full-time college students who were nonmedical users of [prescription stimulants] were almost three times as likely… to have used marijuana in the past year, eight times more likely to have used cocaine in that period, eight times more likely to have been nonmedical users of prescription tranquilizers and five times more likely to have been nonmedical users of prescription pain relievers.”
In addition to choosing not to be educated about illicit and prescription drug use, it seems that in the case of Utah, it may also be something that is easy to hide. Popping a pill doesn’t require the same paraphernalia as other drug use.
Ron Williams, the maker of the film Happy Valley, a documentary about drug abuse in Utah County, said, “Utah is not unique to drugs. What is unique about Utah is the level of denial, because we want, particularly in Utah County, to look a certain way rather than how it truly is.”