Prescription Drug Abuse Rises Among High School Seniors

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COLUMBIA - The Youth Community Coalition participated in a prescription drug take back event Friday in response to an increase of prescription drug abuse among Boone County high school seniors.

Ryan Worley, the Youth Community Coalition Coordinator, said as a whole the youth organization has seen a slight increase of abuse in specific grades.

"We are looking from six all the way up to twelfth grade," Worley said.

The line graph below illustrates the rise of drug abuse from 2010 to 2012.

Worley said overall the organization has noticed a leveling off of rates of abuse. He also said when the drug take back program first started there was a steady increase in abuse with rates that were equivalent to marijuana use.

Redding and Worley said one of the main focuses this year is communicating to parents how dangerous the prescription drugs are and how they could lead to harder drugs. Prescription drugs are one of the leading gateway drugs to heroin.

"The chronology from the prescription medications to heroin is not a big leap," Redding said. "You can actually see the parallels between the two."

Worley said he has seen more and more heroin incidents in Columbia and Boone County in both the youth population and the adult population.

"There is certainly a connection between the abuse of prescription drugs and heroin," Worley said. "When you are talking about abusing high level pain killers, a lot of times that translates to people switching to heroin."

Another thing Worley and Redding hope to get across at this years event is that overdoses occur more frequently than fatal car accidents. Worley said in the last few years the youth organization has seen overdose as the leading cause of death, and that increase is due majorly in part to the number of overdoses related directly to prescription drugs.

According the the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every day in the United States 105 people die as a result of a drug overdoes and another 6,748 are treated in emergency departments for the misuse or abuse of drugs. Also, nearly 9 out of 10 poisoning deaths are caused by drugs.

Redding said the drug take back event is averaging between 500 and 600 pounds of pills annually, and since the program started they have collected more than one and a half tons of prescription pills.

For more information on the prescription drug take back, visit the Drug Enforcement Agencies website.