Illicit drug use and the misuse of prescription medications are widespread problems in the United States. According to SAMHSA, approximately 23 million Americans aged 12 or older, or roughly 9 percent of the population, were current illicit drug users in 2010. These substances include marijuana/hashish, cocaine (including crack), heroin, hallucinogens, and inhalants. In a 2010 report, approximately seven million Americans reported that they currently used prescription drugs for nonmedical purposes.
Most young people refrain from using illicit drugs, but an estimated 1 in 10 youth aged 12 to 17 was a current illicit drug user in 2010.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse warns that drug use among people of all ages is dangerous because it can lead to addiction, reduced self-control and impaired decision-making, in addition to other serious physical consequences. Some drugs can alter the brain in ways that persist after the person has stopped taking drugs, and which may even be permanent. Combining prescription drugs with alcohol or other drugs can lead to heart failure, seizures, and can be lethal. When
taken as prescribed by a doctor or healthcare provider, prescription drugs are safe and effective. But all medicines have risks when misused or abused. It’s important to follow directions on dosages and how often to take these drugs, and never take any medication that’s prescribed for someone else. Drugs can impair perception, cognition, attention, balance, coordination, reaction time, and other capabilities needed for daily activities, such as driving. Operating a vehicle under the influence of drugs puts the safety of drivers, passengers, pedestrians, and others on the road at risk.
Using illicit drugs and misusing prescription drugs, including depressants and stimulants, can have severe health consequences: Blurred vision; Hallucinations; Delirium; Dangerous levels of dehydration and overheating; feelings of sadness, anxiety and depression; Thinking and memory difficulties; Slowed pulse and breathing; and Respiratory depression.
Using or abusing illicit drugs can result in more serious consequences: respiratory arrest, heart failure, coma, and death.
What Communities Can Do
Get involved in your child’s day-to-day activities and discuss the risks of using illicit and prescription drugs. By being involved early and consistently, you can help prevent problems before they occur. Parents should also securely store prescription drugs and dispose of unused supplies.
Improve the learning environment by addressing students’ aggressive behaviors and poor concentration, which are risks associated with the eventual onset of drug abuse and related problems.
Community Organizations and Leaders
Implement effective prevention programs, like those listed on SAMHSA’s National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs and Practices.
Many signs may indicate that someone is abusing prescription drugs or using illicit drugs, and could also point to other problems. Signs to look for include: Missing prescription drugs (especially narcotics and mood stabilizers), or evidence of drug paraphernalia or inhalant products; Changes in friends, the use of secretive language, increased secrecy about possessions
or activities, or negative changes in school or job performance; Increased use of sprays, perfumes, or mouthwash to mask smoke or chemical odors; and An
increase in borrowing money.
Community members can also utilize Prescription Take-Back Containers to limit the availability of old, unused or expired prescriptions. This is critical as many of our youth and others obtain medications to abuse from family members’ medicine cabinets. See our Links & Resource page for location of these boxes.
This information is being brought to you by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and Pontotoc
County Drug Free Coalition as part of Nation Prevention Week 2012. Stay tuned for more information throughout Prevention Week or visit us on the web at www.pcdfc.org.