Prescription medication teens’ drug of choice

Young addicts report pills are easy to obtain according to an article in the Ventura  County Star

Colin stole pain pills from his grandfather and took Xanax from a friend’s mom. Amber filched Vicodin from a neighbor. Sarah got Ritalin from a friend with a prescription.

The teens — recovering drug addicts who gathered last month with other young former drug users and their parents for a support group meeting — are part of a growing number of young people who have abused prescription drugs.

In fact, most of the teens at the Action Family Counseling support group meeting at Apollo High School in Simi Valley said they used to get high on medications intended to control pain, anxiety or attention deficit disorder.

The most popular pills include anti-anxiety medications such as Xanax and Valium, pain pills including Oxycontin and Vicodin, drugs for attention deficit disorder like Adderall and Ritalin, and Soma, a muscle relaxant.

"Prescription drug use is just astronomically high among the youth population," said Patrick Zarate, who manages alcohol and drug programs for the Ventura County Behavioral Health Department.

Nationwide, more teens are now abusing prescription medications than any drug except marijuana, according to a report released in January by the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy.

In 2006, 15 percent of 11th-graders, 9 percent of ninth-graders and 4 percent of seventh-graders reported taking painkillers without prescriptions, according to the California Student Survey.

For 12- and 13-year-olds across the country, prescription medication is the drug of choice, the Drug Control Policy report says.

The trend has the attention of law enforcement officials and drug counselors in Ventura County.

When Kim Shean of the Ventura County Probation Agency last month looked through the records of the last 100 kids who passed through the county’s juvenile drug courts, she found that 38 admitted to abusing some kind of prescription drug. Over the past six months, the number of kids admitting to prescription drug abuse was 55 percent of the total, said Shean, who supervises the juvenile drug court.

"This is the drug of choice now: pills, any pills," said Deputy Gary Niebergall of the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department, who has spent the last three years as a resource officer at Camarillo High School.

Niebergall said he has found students with pills they swiped from medicine cabinets or bought without even knowing what they were because they thought that they could get high. In one case, Niebergall found an unknowing boy with estrogen pills.

Why prescription pills? At last month’s Action meeting at Apollo, the most common answer from teens was that they are easy to get. Many asked that their last names not be used because of their age and the sensitivity of the topic.

Sarah, 15, of Simi Valley said she took many different drugs before she went into treatment: Ritalin, Vicodin, Xanax, Soma, Norco, marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine and ecstasy. The Norco and Vicodin came from a friend in choir who got it from her parents, she said. She got the Ritalin from a friend with a prescription. Sometimes, she said, she’d pop the pills at school.

Colin, 15, of Simi Valley said he bought his first Oxycontin pill from a man outside a liquor store when he was 14. By that time, he’d already been smoking marijuana for three years.

When he needed a fix, he sometimes swiped prescription painkillers from his grandfather’s medicine cabinet, he said. "If I didn’t have to spend any money, I’d take anything," he said.

Sources of drugs

The majority of teens abusing prescription drugs find them in home medicine cabinets or get them from other young people, according to local authorities and national studies.  … continue reading