A panel convened by the Blaine County Drug Coalition told an audience Tuesday in Sun Valley that parents need to be proactive in keeping their children from abusing prescription drugs.
A short film titled “Out of Reach” preceded the discussion at the Community School. In the film, a Texas high school student named Cyrus Stowe interviewed fellow students about prescription drug abuse. Stowe found that the parents of most had talked to them about marijuana and alcohol, but none of the parents addressed prescription drugs.
“There’s a perception that abusing prescription drugs comes with low risk because they’re prescribed by doctors and have grown up with people they know taking those drugs,” Drug Coalition Executive Director and Ketchum City Councilman Michael David said. “We have to be willing to talk to our kids about the true dangers of these drugs. It’s not the painkillers that are the problem, but rather the misuse of them.”
Emergency room doctor and author Brent Russell said prescription amphetamines can be addictive like cocaine because teenagers take them in an abusive manner. He said that once kids come off the high of a drug, often they want to take another because the low that comes after is so difficult to handle.
As Stowe showed in his film, the lows people suffer from prescription drug abuse are extremely low indeed—his father’s drug abuse caused both of them to have a near-death experience in an automobile accident. One of Stowe’s friends who recently overdosed on painkillers says she knows she is addicted and needs to stop, but can’t bring herself to do so.
Throughout the panel discussion, each member tried to educate the audience on how to identify whether his or her child is abusing prescription drugs. Such signs included heavy mood swings and sharply dilated pupils.
Panel members suggested that parents take their pills out of their medicine cabinet and instead put them in a locked container. However, locking up pills is not nearly enough to solve the problem, as kids can steal medications from friends’ families.
In Stowe’s film, a young man once addicted to painkillers said he used to crawl under his parents’ bed while they were asleep and took the lock box apart, then put it back together without waking his parents up. With that in mind, each panelist admitted there’s no one solution to keeping prescription drugs out of youngsters’ hands, but each agreed awareness is a step in the right direction.
“Communities make such a huge difference with an issue like this,” David said. “People in Idaho don’t like being told what to do or how to do it, but it’s so important that we’re careful about keeping dangerous things like this away from our kids. Yet at the same time, we’re so nonchalant about prescription pills with our kids.”
Sun Valley Fire Department Capt. Mal Prior shared his tragic story of how painkillers affected his stepdaughter, Ashley Nicole Prior, and how the pills became a gateway for an even more dangerous drug.
“In October 2012, my stepdaughter died of a heroin overdose,” Prior said. “She used prescription drugs first. There’s not a huge difference between an opiate and heroin. People start using heroin when they’re addicted to pills because it’s cheaper and a lot of times easier to get.”
Prior said that while his stepdaughter suffered from addiction, she experienced heavy mood swings as well as sudden weight gain and weight loss. He urged audience members to be willing to confront their children when they feel something is wrong.
“All you’re going to hear is, ‘Oh, you don’t trust me,’” Prior said. “They’re unbelievable manipulators, and they’re great at lying. My daughter went from being a beautiful young lady to not being my daughter. As a parent you have to see that. When it seems like there’s something wrong, there probably is something going wrong. Even if you’re locking up your own drugs, it still needs to be a community issue where they don’t allow access.”
David said the coalition plans to pursue a campaign to have each bag holding prescription drugs in the area come with a flyer warning the user to lock the drugs away from potential abusers. He also said he plans to hold more panel discussions next year, and to keep working closely with the Office of Drug Policy and the local parent-teacher associations.