Monday, March 09, 2009

Non-medical use of pain relievers

From a SAMHSA press release:

Adults aged 18 to 25 currently using pain relievers for non-medical reasons increased from 4.1 percent in 2002 to 4.6 percent in 2007…

youths aged 12 to 17 … non-medical use of pain relievers … declined from 3.2 percent in 2002 to 2.7 percent in 2007…

Use among adults aged 26 or older increased from 1.3 percent to 1.6 percent

While the use among 12 to 17 year olds seems to hold some promise, it remains a topic rarely spoken of or adequately addressed in in-school programs, as far as I know. Over-use and abuse of prescription pain relievers is a large problem for society (“5.2 million people aged 12 years or older in 2007”), yet it remains poorly addressed. It is multifaceted in cause (not just to get high), contributing factors (diversion, over-prescribing, poor control/understanding of effects, etc), and the way it is viewed (‘not as bad as using street drugs’).

My other thought on this: how many of these folks will move on to illicit drugs? I have not seen that sort of research and it might be a bit tough to do. But, in my limited experience, a fair number of them will. In many places (like our county and its surrounds) heroin is cheaper and easier to get than prescription pain relievers on the illicit market, making it a fairly ‘natural’ switch. Using illicit drugs and/or the illicit marketplace often contributes to social, legal and societal problems compounding the “effects” of the drugs.

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