The process is simple: go to the dentist, get a couple of teeth pulled and get a prescription for Vicodin. Before you even get home and start drinking food from a straw the pain is gone. That Vicodin (or the generic version) works nothing less than wonders. You lay on the couch watching television eating soft foods, popping one pill in your mouth every 4-6 hours. This is the life. You feel like you are on cloud nine, no pain, no puffiness of the cheeks can stop you now.
At the end of the process you have 4 or 5 pills left over. You put them into the medicine cabinet, “just in case.” One month later you notice that instead of 10 tablets left, you have 8, then the week after you notice you are down to five, and lastly, the bottle ends up gone. You don’t remember taking them, and your husband or wife never asked to take some. You think to yourself “maybe I just lost track with how happy I really was on those pills.” Maybe not. Maybe your 17 year old child has found something that they can enjoy as well. The Partnership for a Drug-Free America says that 20% of high school seniors admit to taking one of the four most dangerous drugs: Oxycontin,Ritain, Vicodin and Adderall
Year after year the number of teens abusing prescription drugs jumps. From Vicodin to Oxycontin and Ritalin, they seem to find a way to get their hands on the drugs. Whether it be acting out in class to complaining about teeth pain, a prescription is readily available to them. Being in the pharmaceutical business for so many years I have noticed so many trends. As I consult I get told numerous stories by pharmacists and their support staff about the abuse and overmedication of teens. The most daunting of them all is this:
A customer at one point stopped in with a prescription for Ritalin for their 3 year old daughter. She asked if it came in liquid form. The pharmacist double-checked the young girls age confirming with the mother that the child was in fact three. He would not fill the prescription. The mother then begged and pleaded with the pharmacist saying that her daughter kept asking questions, she kept asking why all the time, and it needed to stop. The pharmacist responded with “it is a three year old ma’am. They are known to be curious.”
Who is to blame:
WIth this alarming trend, there are two people who need to be held accountable for teen drug abuse. One would be the parents who tend to turn a blind eye, the other being the pharmacists who are interested in dollar signs.
The generic for Vicodin is one of the cheapest on the market. With a nominal price for 100 tabs, it is an easy drug to fill early. In middle to upper class neighborhoods, where the cars go fast and the houses are big, they want their drugs, and they want them now. The lower price of Hydrocodone allows for the patient to go and fill a script 15 days too early, ask the pharmacy to put it through as cash (as to leave no record for the insurance company) and walk away with 100 pills. This idea of “cash prescriptions” also allow the person to use other pharmacies as well. If there is nothing billed through the insurance company, no other pharmacy will have any trace of it. When the parents are addicted to the painkillers, this leaves an open window of opportunity with the child. With over 300 pills of Vicodin, will a parent really notice that 3 or 4 tablets are gone a day? Most likely not. When the parents don’t seek help and continue to be dependent and abuse the drug it rubs off on the children. Most people tend to belive alcohol is hereditary, and in some respects and addiction to these sorts of pain killers and ADD medications are can be traced as well. As reported in USA Today, teens are no longer just having birthday parties, but “pharm parties” where different prescriptions are given out to get the best high. What is sad is that most of this can be found in the parent’s medicine cabinet.
How are the pharmacists responsible as well? With lack of suspicion and a motivation for dollar signs, pharmacists tend to look prescriptions filled too early. When outright asked for a controlled substance or narcotic to be filled on cash, pharmacists need to be cautious. The staff needs to run that prescription through the insurance to see if it was filled too soon, and search the central system among that chain to see if it was filled elsewhere-and to notice a trend. Pharmacists are not doing this. Countless times I have seen controlled substances and narcotics be sold at least ten days too early. The buck is supposed to stop with the pharmacist, but rather with a starting salary of $90,000 a year, they have all the bucks they need.
Take note, what is in your cabinet, is in your child’s too – and your pharmacy enables that just as much as a parent does.