In the past decade, the illegal narcotic heroin has been working its way into more affluent neighborhoods after years of being the scourge of mostly lower-income areas and individuals. Many people in affluent areas are turning to heroin after becoming addicted to prescription opioid medications, because heroin is both significantly cheaper and often easier to obtain.
The connection between prescription opioid addiction and heroin use is so strong that federal statistics estimate as many as four out of five heroin users began with prescription medications.
Teenagers are vulnerable to this new epidemic, and teenage athletes may be among the most vulnerable. Injuries open the door to the use of prescription pain medications such as Vicodin and Percocet. Use of these drugs in turn makes teens more vulnerable to addiction and possibly, later on, to heroin.
Competitive World Of High School Sports
High school sports have never been so competitive, and many teenage athletes have never been under more physical and mental pressure to perform at their best. These rigors can result in general wear and tear as well as more serious injuries. Serious, surgery-requiring injuries that threaten a teenager’s playing career are becoming more common, and injuries and surgeries can both result in prescriptions for painkillers.
Many teen athletes are also introduced to prescription drugs without actual prescriptions. In high-injury sports such as football, painkillers may be shared among athletes in attempts to resolve minor aches and pains. Some teens who take prescription drugs from teammates may simply not realize the dangers. Others may be attempting to conceal injuries that they fear could threaten their place on the team.
Risk Of Addiction
The risk of becoming addicted to prescription drugs when they are taken strictly according to a prescription and for the short-term, while not nonexistent, is relatively small. However, the risk of addiction when taking prescription painkillers without a prescription, or when patients deviate from the prescription, is much higher.
Some teenage patients who do receive their painkillers through a prescription may get into trouble by unintentionally or thoughtlessly misusing them. They may begin taking more pills than their doctor recommends in order to increase the effects of the drugs. They may continue taking the painkillers longer than they have been advised to in order to treat minor pains that do not require such strong medications.
Strong Drugs May Tempt Some Teens
A smaller percentage of teens are tempted by the availability of their own or a friend’s prescription drugs to use them to get high. This usually involves crushing or dissolving the pills in order to circumvent the slow-release nature of the pills and to receive the full strength of the drug at once.
The risk of addiction when prescription painkillers are abused in this way is extremely high. Painkillers taken this way work more like illegal drugs, creating an intense high that disrupts and eventually permanently alters the brain’s chemistry. Individuals are no longer able to function properly without a dose of the drug in their system.
Importance Of Informing Teens About Prescription Opioids
Most teens who develop prescription drug addictions get into trouble because of ignorance. While drug abuse prevention programs trumpet the dangers of illegal drugs and alcohol, they do not always emphasize the dangers of prescription drugs. Physicians and pharmacists may also fail to properly inform teenagers about the serious risks of addictive prescription drugs and the importance of taking them in strict compliance with the directions provided by medical professionals.
It’s also vital for parents to read up on the dangers of prescription drugs and sit down and talk with their child, whether they’re athlete or not. You are more of an influence on your teen then you may think.
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