Too Young To Know

By: Tara Hettinger
By: Tara Hettinger

The sounds of the 90's, looks of the 90's, and trends for the most part have faded away except for one. It was then that medicating children for problems such as ADD started.

"There was a big (Ritalin) explosion in their usage and probably a lot of times they were used too often it was almost trendy for a time if your child had behavioral problems to get your child put on Ritalin," said Doctor Chris Smith.

And now, it's evolved into much more.

Now children are medicated for depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, and ADHD just to name a few.

"I think there are over-uses of psychiatric medications in general," said Smith.

That's causing the amount of medications on the market to continue multiplying. And that growth comes as more and more Americans and children are found abusing prescription drugs.

The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse says over 15 million Americans are abusing prescriptions. That's more than cocaine, hallucinogens, inhalants, and heroin combined.

The medicines that are abused???

Pain medicines, depressants, and stimulants. 2 out of 3 of which are commonly prescribed to children.

"If he says the child needs it then my duty is to dispense the medication not to second guess the physician," said pharmacist Rick Mathews.

But with more drugs being dispensed studies are showing that a growing number of children are also falling victim to prescription drug abuse.

In just 10 years from the early ninety's until 2003 children abusing prescriptions jumped 212 percent (12-17 yr olds).

To put that in perspective, in the average classroom of 30 students about 3 of them aged 12-17 say they have abused at least 1 prescription drug. And that is being found to be a gateway to future drug abuse.

The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse says those teens who abuse prescription drugs at 2-times more likely to use alcohol, 5-times to use marijuana, 12- times likelier to use heroin, 15-times ecstasy, and 21-times likely to use cocaine compared to teens who did not abuse prescription drugs.

Doctor Smith says these statistics are scaring the wrong people. "The parents we're getting... We're often the last person they're turning to."

Smith says those are the ones who needed the medicine where it could have helped.

But some pharmacists are weary of it's necessity.

"We're seeing more medicated and you're seeing it at a younger age now so i would say it's not solving the problem," said pharmacist Dale Clark.

While the explosion of drugs such as Ritalin is starting to die down the drug warnings of that and other similar psychiatric medications are just getting started.

There was 13 years of down time when those drugs were prescribed to children before the warnings started.

As those warnings continue to add up now there's still little to nothing known about the long term effects that may be awaiting your child in the future.

Coming up tomorrow night at 6 we'll take a closer look at the escalating risks with the medicines in Part 2 of Too Young To Know.


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