Drexel professors study teenage prescription drug abuse | The Triangle
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Drexel professors study teenage prescription drug abuse

A bowl is filled with a colorful assortment of prescription drugs. Teens pop handfuls into their mouths and swallow, often swigging the contents down with alcohol. The deadly new game of drug roulette is an upcoming fad called “pharming.” Although it may seem all in good fun, these medical combinations could result in stroke, heart attack or brain damage leading to death.

According to a recent study by two Drexel associate professors at the School of Public Health, Renee Turchi and Susan Solecki, such recreational use of prescription drugs is a growing concern. As prescription drug abuse continues to rise among teenagers, these parties are becoming more and more popular.

Turchi and Solecki recently authored an article about pharming in the journal Contemporary Pediatrics. Their article discusses the reasons why prescription medication abuse is becoming so frequent.

“Students report that prescription pills can often be bought for less than other drugs such as marijuana and cocaine,” wrote Turchi and Solecki in an email.

“Students can steal drugs from medicine cabinets of friends and relatives for virtually no cost,” they continued.

The professors’ article states that in 2010 alone, enough prescription medications were prescribed to keep every American medicated for a month straight. Of course, some of these prescribed medications often end up sitting around in medicine cabinets long after they’ve served their purpose — making them free and easily obtainable drugs for teens.

In fact, Turchi and Solecki’s report, citing the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, states that prescription medicines are the secondly most common abused form of drug by people aged 12-24 (behind marijuana). The use of prescription drugs is greater than the use of drugs like cocaine and heroin.

The two claim these prescription medications are more than gateway drugs; they’re hard, addictive substances.

“Gateway drugs are drugs that are perceived to be mild in their effects but have potential to lead to taking other stronger drugs,” Turchi and Solecki explained.

“These kids are bypassing all of that and jumping right into the strong stuff, such as using  Vicodin, Xanax, Ritalin (all controlled substances) and mixing them together in unknown quantities. Even over-the-counter [drugs] have potential to cause severe adverse effects.”

Teen’s parents are often completely unaware of any addiction to assorted drugs until it’s too late.

“Recent studies suggest a child is using drugs wrongly for two years before his or her parents realize it, and parents usually don’t notice until it’s a heroin addiction. Also, most parents have no idea what a stamp bag (heroin) looks like,” Turchi and Solecki wrote.

The data in Turchi and Solecki’s report shows that more than 14 percent of high school seniors have used prescription drugs for nonmedical reasons at least one time. The two both state that in order to lessen prescription medication abuse, including pharming parties, it is important to raise awareness among health care practitioners, parents and, of course, teens themselves.