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June 6, 2006 - Metrowest Daily News (MA)

OpEd: Second Opinion - The New Drug War

By Dr. Murray Feingold, Daily News Correspondent

Return to Drug War News: Don't Miss Archive

The types of drugs that adolescents are illegally taking are changing.

The use of illicit street drugs, such as Ecstasy and cocaine, is decreasing. However, this does not mean teenagers are taking fewer drugs, they are just taking different drugs. Adolescents are now illegally taking a greater number of prescription drugs than ever before. For example, 7.2 percent of high school students have reported the nonmedical use of sedatives, a significant increase from prior years.

The use of the prescription drug Oxycontin has also increased during the past two years. Other prescription drugs that are on the increase are narcotics, amphetamines, tranquilizers and stimulants such as Ritalin. Various reasons have been promulgated for the increase use of prescription drugs and the decrease use of street drugs by teenagers.

One becomes obvious when you compare the media coverage of these two groups of drugs. There are repeated stories concerning the dangers of street drugs and reports of youngsters dying from overdoses. These reports understandably scare the youngster.

Compare those reports with the many advertisements that now flood the media that espouse the virtues and minimize the side effects of a whole host of prescription medications. Adolescents, and perhaps adults too, get a false sense of security concerning these drugs.

It is estimated over $4 billion is spent by the pharmaceutical industry to promote their medications. It is very possible their role models -- their parents - -- are taking the same medications.

Although a prescription is necessary for these medications, because so many people are taking them they are frequently easily available and at no cost to the teenager.

The medical profession also bears some responsibility. Physicians are sometimes too lax when it comes to prescribing these medications to youngsters.

So, parents, it is possible that although your teenaged child is not taking street drugs, he or she may be hooked on prescription medications, the same medications you may also be taking.

Dr. Murray Feingold is the physician in chief of the National Birth Defects Center, medical editor of CBS4 TV and WBZ radio, and president of the Genesis Fund, a nonprofit organization that funds the care of children born with birth defects, mental retardation and genetic diseases.

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