Think before you popTuesday, December 13, 2011 By MORGAN HINCHEY
Lurking in small, orange bottles or clear, plastic bags lies one of the biggest problems affecting the lives of Etowah students: abuse of prescription drugs. According to campus officer, Richie Rich, prescription drugs that are most commonly abused by Etowah students are painkillers, such as OxyContin, and drugs that are intended to be taken for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder that include Ritalin, Adderall and Vyvanse. According to drugabuse.gov, 54% of high school students admit that it would be fairly or very easy to get their hands on these various prescription pills, and the reason, according to Rich, that prescription drugs remain the biggest drug problem on Etowah’s campus is this fact that prescription drugs are so readily available to students. Often students are able to find the drugs they seek within medicine cabinets of their own homes or the homes of close friends. When taken in the correct dosage and in times of need, prescription drugs are extremely beneficial and carry out crucial roles in modern-day society. Furthermore, there is a clear reason that prescription drugs are intended to be taken under the direction of a doctor; if used improperly, they can be very dangerous and life-altering. While there are many reasons that might drive teen abuse of prescription drugs, the common reasons are to get high, to treat pain or because they believe that it will help them focus and succeed in school. Many teens also justify prescription drug abuse, because they are under the misconception that abusing prescription drugs is safer than abusing illicit drugs like heroin, because they are readily given out by doctors and undergo a regulated manufacturing process, according to the National Institute of Drug Abuse. When teens reach for prescription drugs to feel better or to temporarily solve their problems, they neglect to consider the consequences of their actions. “I have seen healthy-looking students become scrawny and gain both a lack of focus and dramatic attitudinal changes, due to prescription drug abuse,” Rich said. Extended amounts of abuse can lead to a variety of side effects including constipation, drowsiness, slow breathing, increased blood pressure and increased heart rate. Drugabuse.gov explains that these side effects can be made worse when prescription drugs are not taken as prescribed or are abused in combination with other substances, including alcohol, other prescription drugs and even over-the-counter drugs, such as cold medicines. Aside from potential health risks, prescription drug abuse can result in serious punishment consequences. The schedule and type of drug does come into play when determining punishment; nevertheless, if a student is caught within 5000 feet of school campus with prescription drugs in an improper container, this offense is considered a felony. If the prescription drugs are, however, actually prescribed and required for medical purposes these should be properly labeled and left in the front office.