Prescription drugs often the gateway to harder drugs

PARKER – Most of us do not give much thought to those old drugs that are gathering dust in our medicine cabinets and cupboards. Police, however, are finding that those often unused and forgotten prescriptions can be too much for some teens to resist.

“[Prescription drugs are] the second most abused drug, above marijuana,” explained Deputy Ann Walton, a School Resource Officer that serves several Douglas County schools for the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office.

“Unfortunately we live in a society where there is a pill for anything. Any kind of ailment, there is a pill for it…The kids believe that it is okay and it is safe because it is prescribed by a doctor, so they think that it is safe to use this stuff,” Walton added.

She says there are a lot of cases in which students are mixing different prescription drugs or loading up on far too many.

“They're taking toxic amounts. They might be on their own prescription meds and then they're taking someone else's and they're combining the. It's creating a toxic case in their body where they can't handle it,” Walton said. “Hopefully they'll be fine after that and they'll learn they can't do this, they can't mix drugs. Sometimes they are not.”

Even more dangerous is the fact that these drugs open the door to harder drug use.

“This is one of the gateway drugs along with marijuana and alcohol, because they get curious, they start taking in and then the high isn't high enough. They want to start moving up to harder drugs,” Walton said.

“They might start out with prescription drugs and find that 'hey, I can get this a lot cheaper and I'm going to move on to something else and get a bigger high.' The problem is that they're not understanding that it is doing a lot more to their body, physically it's doing a lot more to them,” she added.

Most students also do not think of the legal ramifications because the drugs are available for people to use legally with a prescription.

“If you are using prescription drugs that are not yours, if you're selling them or buying them, depending on what they are, especially narcotic or a controlled substance, you can be charged with a felony. If you're charged with a felony, you might as well not apply to certain colleges and certain jobs. I've seen a lot of kids lose full ride scholarships because of this. Not only does it have an effect on our health, on us legally, because if you're charged with a felony, that stays on our records. Kids are not thinking about their future, they've got such a bright future and do this stuff, it's going to take that all away,” Walton said.

She encourages parents, grandparents and everyone else to clean out that old mediciene cabinet and to drop off those unneeded prescriptions during a “Take Back” Day, like the one hosted by the sheriff’s office last weekend or to a pharmacy.

“It's safer than putting them down the toilet or down the sink or anything like that. And definitely safer than putting them in the trash because kids will look in the trash for these things if they are desperate enough to get these drugs,” Walton said.

Finally, she encourages parents to keep a close eye on their student’s behavior.

“As parents we can know what my kids are doing, monitor what they're doing. Monitor the drugs that we have in our house. Monitor their cell phones, monitor their emails, so you know who they're talking to. So you know what they're talking about, so you know where they are all day. There is a big piece for parents, not just educating our kids too,” Walton said.


Preventing Prescription Drug Abuse (Parents-The Anti-Drug)

Prescription Drug Abuse (The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy)

Prescription Drug Abuse Fact Sheet (PDF download)