Hello, my name is John Bueno and I am a pharmacist with CVS Health. I wanted to share some information with you about the Prescription Drug epidemic that is plaguing our country, our communities, our schools, and our families.
You may not understand or believe how big of a problem this is, but it is real and it is happening all across the country. I am going to mention the word “Choices” because you have to make choices all the time. I think it is important to remember that you are free to make whatever choice you want, but you are not free from the consequences because the choices that you make can change everything for you, your friends, and your family.
Many of you have heard about the Prescription Drug Epidemic through your school, newspapers, or the internet and I know how you may think… You may think that this could never happen to me. It is important to note that this is reality and it happens to teenagers with real families that are now permanently affected by the abuse of prescription drugs.
Fact or Fiction? America’s biggest drug problem is the use of illegal “Street” drugs? Crack, Cocaine, Crystal Meth, Heroin, ect. Prescription drug abuse is now America’s biggest drug problem and it is at epidemic proportions. The United States consumes 99% of the world’s hydrocodone. How many of you have heard of Hydrocodone, otherwise known as Vicodin, or Oxycodone, otherwise known as Percocet or Oxycontin. How many of you have heard of Adderall, Ritalin, Dexedrine, or Alprazolam, otherwise known as Xanax. Most of these medications are meant for pain after major injuries or surgeries and are intended for short term use throughout the healing process. These medications do have a risk of dependence and if used improperly or abused can have serious consequences. But to truly understand the impact of abuse, I think it is important to put the numbers in perspective. Think about the United States which only makes up only 5% of the world’s population yet consumes 99% of the world’s Hydrocodone!! In addition, the United States uses 80% of the world’s production of Oxycodone drugs. Does that sound alarming to you? It does to me and truly feel that we need to better educate our communities, our patients, our families and our most vulnerable segment of our communities, and that is our students. The fact of the matter is that if you make the choice to abuse prescription medications, it can cause a whole list of problems and one of which is death. In 2014 the CDC reported that every 19 minutes someone dies of an unintentional drug overdose. These are some scary numbers, but let’s try and make this real. It is not just about the numbers, it is about the individuals and families as well as our communities that are affected.
When I think about prescription drug abuse as an epidemic I think about “Our Community and Our Responsibility”. It is “Our Responsibility” to inform, to educate, and to explain the dangers of the abuse of prescription drugs and to show you the consequences that one poor choice may lead to. You are growing up in a unique time where access to drugs are more readily available and thought of differently than traditional street drugs. Back in the day we thought of access to drugs as a “Back Alley” experience, but today it’s a in the “Hallways” of our schools and the majority of the abused prescription medications are coming from our own medicine cabinets! I have had many a sad parent present a tablet to me for identification or a teenager who was given an unknown medication at a party, only to find out it was a commonly prescribed prescription medication. I cannot emphasize enough to people, please secure medications and restrict access to anyone the medication is not intended for use.
There may be times when you need to involve others for help, who should you go to? Parents, Teachers, Coaches, School Counselors, School Resource Officers, and Medical Professionals. Some of you may have aunts, uncles, cousins or even older siblings that you can reach out to. You probably have more people around you than you think that are able to help. Pick someone that you trust and someone that you feel will listen to you and give you good advice. However, there are times where you may not feel comfortable going to someone you know and I want you to be aware that there are resources still available. You always have someone to talk to. Not only are there people in your community to help you or a friend but there are online resources as well. There is a website “abovetheinfluence.com” that is built for teens where you can find a lot of information that raised awareness about the influences that surround you. Above the influence aims to empower you with necessary social skills and positive messages to cope with peer pressure and help make healthy choices. On this site you can also connect with your peers on a national level, and encourage you to take action in your own community to affect postitive change.
I am going to conclude with this… You have the power to make a choice each and every day and life is about choices. Remember that one choice can change everything and we are who we choose to be.