Substance abuse awareness and emerging drug threats

By: Sarah Goebel Email
By: Sarah Goebel Email

Just behind marijuana, prescription drug abuse is one of the leading drug problems.

A study by the National Institute on Drug abuse shows that in 2005 more than 6 million people, ages 12 and older, were using prescription drugs for non-medical purposes.

The problem is becoming so common a national focus has been put on prescription drug abuse.

The Barren-Hart-Metcalfe Kentucky Agency for Substance Abuse Policy is holding prescription drug abuse forums all week long.

The events are called "Drugs Stop Here" and are meant to bring awareness to the area about this growing problem.

Prescription drug abuse is most commonly associated with teens but it's a problem among all age groups.

"It's easy for adults to get by going to the pharmacy or getting from a co-worker or friend. It's easy for a teenager to get because they can get it from parent's medical cabinet or friends as well," said Melissa Flowers, the Kentucky ASAP Project Director.

Flowers said you can also get prescription drugs online without proof from a doctor that you actually need it. She said not only do people use prescription drugs to get high because of it's easy access, people also think that they're less addictive and safer than most drugs.

"Most think they are safer because of the simple fact they are legal - they aren't illegal," Flowers explained.

Since prescription drugs aren't illegal and it may be hard for police to track, pharmacists are always on the lookout for abusers.

"A lot of people - they come in ask a lot of questions. They don't look abnormal but they're asking questions. Usually people don't ask. They're busy talking just like they're nervous," pharmacist, Wes Marion said.

Marion said about once a month a drug abuser will try to get prescriptions from him.

"We have a lot of information that we can use to catch you if we have to," Marion explained.

Marion said pharmacies in smaller cities have an advantage over bigger cities when it comes to detecting drug abusers.

"We're familiar with doctors - with their handwriting - with medications that they use," Marion said.

Marion said Kentucky pharmacists can enter a customer's personal information into a computer program to find out their prescription drug history within minutes.

"It's ongoing teamwork between doctors and pharmacists to touch base if we have something on the loose out there that we kind of know ahead of time," Marion said.

If Marion catches a drug abuser, he either gives them a warning or has them arrested.

He said this sort of thing happens at all pharmacies and in his experience, it's usually the 20 to 30-year-olds that are the abusers.

Flowers said the forums will teach prescription drug awareness, the side effects of drugs, what drugs are used most and the signals to detect if someone you know is abusing prescription drugs.

The Drugs Stop Here forums will be May 7, 2007, at the Hart County High School gym, Metcalfe County High School gym on May 8, 2007, and the Barren County High School cafeteria on May 10, 2007. All of the forums begin at 6 p.m.

To read an analysis of recent prescription drug trends in teenagers and emerging drug threats, click here and for prescription drug facts, click here.

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