Prescription Painkillers and Kids: A Dangerous Mix

Thursday, July 12th, 2012

GerardWith prescription drug overdose deaths now outnumbering traffic fatalities in the United States, increased prescription use may seem like the last thing our country needs right now. But as The Wall Street Journal recently reported, the FDA is currently testing the effects of Oxycontin – a highly addictive prescription opiate – on pediatric patients aged six to 16.

Andrew Kolodny, president of the Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing and a practicing psychiatrist in New York, argues that putting kids with chronic pain on Oxycontin is unethical. “With children,” he explains, “we have to be more concerned for risk with addiction.”

Many of our youngclients here at Phoenix House can attest to this. CNN recently interviewed Gerard, one of our clients at the Phoenix House Brentwood Campus, about his experiences with Oxycontin—a drug whose popularity is skyrocketing, with more than 2.8 billion sales in 2011.

“I started using painkillers at age 18 after a sports injury,” says Gerard, now 28. “I began abusing them soon after. I was able to stop using for a bit, but when I picked up again, I picked up heroin.”

Gerard is one of countless teens on Long Island and elsewhere in suburban America who begin using prescription drugs and soon discover that heroin is a cheaper high. Our Chief Clinical Officer Deni Carise recently told CBS that she has noticed an increase in teens who switch to active heroin addiction after six months or less of prescription painkiller use. “The more people who try drugs,” Deni explains, “the more people get addicted.” Unfortunately, that goes for teens as well as adults.

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