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Prescription medication abuse thrives partially on lack of understanding


David Rauzi

Prescription medication misuse and abuse is not exclusively a big-city problem; it’s here – right here in rural Idaho — and we have work to do to raise public awareness about the problem.

Of all the statistics that were thrown about on this topic at the Kamiah Community Partners Coalition meeting last week, the fact that Idaho ranks fourth in the nation for prescription med abuse was jolting; that shock was a good thing.

The usual suspects –meth, heroin and marijuana – draw our attention because those are the bad boys of the drug abuse world; they’re flashy and make for good TV crime drama.

But prescription meds? Who doesn’t have those in the cabinet somewhere? Those are good; they help us manage our pain, our illness, our mental challenges. “Ask your doctor if they’re right for you,” goes the ad slogan; he or she is someone you trust with your health and that of your family. These meds are as common as toothpaste and deodorant in the cabinet, and we keep the unused portion around in case we or our family may need them later. It’s just silly to think of these in the same league as something like meth, right?

And therein lies the problem, as was emphasized last week. We buy into the myth of safety because their intended use is for good. Parents rarely include the prescription med abuse topic in their “don’t do drugs” talk with their kids, and some may dole out their unused meds to kids to treat their problems. So kids don’t see it as a problem or even equate these as being as serious an abuse issue as, say, heroin, which interestingly many of these prescription pain killers fall into the same class as.

From here it gets dark: a lack of vigilance on these meds means they’re easy to pilfer, undetected, from the medicine cabinet by a family member or a house visitor. The subjective nature of pain allows patients to bump up their prescription amounts so as to sell a portion for a tidy profit; that scenario was substantiated by the Nimiipuu Health Clinic representative. And as addictions go, these meds serve as the gateway to less expensive illegal drugs that further tightens its grip upon the addict.

So what do we do? Self-educate on the issue, be an advocate in your organization to bring in a guest speaker on the topic, and be a better source of information and also a role model for your children and grandchildren. On your meds, inventory and secure them; unused or expired meds can be taken to secure drop-off boxes in Grangeville, Kamiah and Nezperce; or check with your doctor or pharmacy.


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