Teens and Prescription Drugs: Little. Legal. Lethal.

Nearly one in five teens has used prescription drugs to get high; one in ten high school seniors has abused prescription drugs in the past year. And that's just what they're willing to admit.

By Alexis Jetter from Reader's Digest | December 2010

Nora Volkow, MD, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), is most worried by the growing trend among teens of sampling a variety of prescription drugs and then drinking alcohol.

“Kids are not pharmacologists,” she says. “They may say, ‘Fentanyl, OxyContin — what’s the difference?’ So they take a bunch of things and may combine them with alcohol.”

That’s a deadly miscalculation, Dr. Volkow says. The amount of opioid painkiller needed to induce euphoria is already frighteningly close to the amount that can kill you. That margin virtually disappears if you add alcohol or tranquilizers like Klonopin, Valium, and Xanax, which also depress the brain’s respiratory center. One 40 mg methadone pill, washed down with two gin and tonics, can be fatal. Says Dr. Volkow, “You are playing a game of Russian roulette you do not understand.”

“Honestly, Whit was just being a kid,” says her mother, Tammi Lizotte, a vibrant woman with short red hair and startlingly blue eyes. “She was not popping a million pills.” Indeed, the medical examiner told Lizotte that Whitney hadn’t taken a large drug dose. But she and her roommate Brandy had mixed methadone, an addiction-treatment drug also widely used to control pain, with Klonopin and washed them down with a few beers. That’s a popular combination for kids looking for a quick high, police say.

Matty had taken fentanyl, an opioid that in some formulations is hundreds of times more powerful than heroin. Used properly, fentanyl can enable patients to cope with cancer pain. Taken in excess, it creates euphoria — then can shut down the respiratory center of the brain.

Matty Rix wouldn’t fit anyone’s idea of a hardened drug addict, friends and family say. Mischievous and affectionate, Matty was a gentle boy, despite his 100 wrestling victories. “He was always the kid behind other kids’ laughter,” says Matt Edwards, 18, a close friend and wrestling buddy.

“He wasn’t afraid to give me a hug or a kiss goodbye or to say ‘Dad, I love you,’” recalls his father, veteran high school wrestling coach Matt Rix. “He wasn’t ashamed to say that in front of anybody.”

But the sweet-faced youth had become addicted to OxyContin in his junior year in high school, after he broke his hand taking jumps in an ATV. Surgery left him with steel screws in his hand and a three-month prescription for painkillers in his wallet. Soon Matty started taking risks to enhance the drug’s effects, crushing the OxyContin pills to remove their slow-release coating and snorting them. Ultimately he tried heroin.

After narrowly surviving a heroin overdose in January 2009, though, Matty vowed to stay clean. “He was scared to death,” says his father. “But it seemed like a big weight had been taken off his chest.”

Matty moved into his own apartment, attended Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, and woke early every day to work with his father on electrical jobs. “It was about trust,” recalls Rix, who says he misses his son’s goodnight calls and companionship. “He wanted to earn it back.”

But Matty, depressed after breaking up with a girlfriend, faltered when he spotted a fentanyl patch, still in a drugstore bag, atop a refrigerator in a house where he and his father were doing work for a local contractor. The patch — infused with three days’ worth of painkiller — was intended for the homeowner’s dog, who’d just had surgery. No one is sure whether Matty chewed the patch or scraped off the drug and snorted it. But once he did, his battle was lost.

“People think of drugs as coming into the United States from another country,” says David Pavlik, a senior intelligence analyst at the Justice Department’s National Drug Intelligence Center. “But increasingly, these drugs are coming from inside our own medicine cabinets.”

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    • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/ANZ6PTVBF54SXG4C4A2MV7747U D J

      I have crused disks in my back and my left knee is worn out,  I am disabled because of this . I drove over the road Motor Coaches simler to Grey Hound bus lines. I was a indepent owner opeartor for many years working for myself .  As the years wore on I wore out the disks in my neck by constanly
      looking for trouble

      I do not understand but people in cars do not see you . I worked with many old school drivers who knew how to drive a million miles with out getting into a accident . Loading and unloading lugge bays kile my back and clutches with 1500 pound rated pressure plates wrecked my knee. I stopped driving in 2005 as thepain became un bearable .  I was prescribed Pain meds and only took them when of duty or not working . I retired in 2005 mainly due to  09 / 11 / 2001 killed the travel and tour industry but more importantly I was not able to drive as Ikilled my body . 

      I had a house for sale and one buyer wanted to see the bathroom and I was distracted by the husband . When they left all my Medcine for pain was stolen . This couplw was in there 40s .  When the house was being showed I kept my medcine in my Car Trunk.   One day a realtor said that she had a be back and asked if she would be able to show the house.  I did forget to put my medcine in my trunk . I said it will be okay.  I saw the realtor coming down the street and left for 30 minutes. 

      A older man and the realtor went in . I came home 40 minutes later and had a buyer at the start of the housing melt down . I went up Stairs  to my bathroom as I could not walk and once again I was robbed
      off my medcine . At closeing I bit my tounge but had the Sheriff show up and found out later after the papers where singed the realtor who was in her 50 s had one of my bottles in Her Pocket .

      This is just not kids stealing either . I did press charges and wonder how many other people did she steel from ? 

      Enough Said Dave