Efforts are being made to curb one of the fastest growing problems for local teenagers. Officials with Weems Community Mental Health Center say prescription drug abuse is significantly on the rise. In fact, Dr. Lin Hogan, who's a substance abuse counselor for Weems, says the number of adolescents he treats for this is currently about 10 times higher than it was just a few years ago. If this problem is not treated, he says the outcome can be deadly!
When it comes to youth and prescription drug abuse, Dr. Hogan says it's most popular with those who are between 14 and 19-years-old.
"Out of every 100 adolescents I see, 5 to 10 have prescription drug problems."
Dr. Lin Hogan says that's significantly more than the one to two patients out of every 100 whom he treated just a few years ago. The prescriptions that are most commonly abused by teenagers are anti-depressants and pain killers.
While the desire for acceptance is one reason for the growing problem, Dr. Hogan says easy access to the drugs is often another.
"People get very, very good at hiding this. You take a few out of there and leave the rest and nobody's going to notice anytime soon."
By the time the missing pills are noticed, he says all too often the damage is done.
"What would happen is that you would take one now and it would stay in your system 12 to 24 hours and then if you take another one, then you have a two to three day dose in your body, and there are accidental overdoses all the time; that's what we're mostly concerned about."
Coupled with the growing prescription drug problem is the increased consumption of energy drinks by adolescents.
"The manufacturers put these products in cans that are very appealing to kids. Now, what's interesting is that it's hard to tell which cans contain alcohol."
Dr. Hogan stresses that mixing alcohol with prescription drugs can be deadly.
"If you drink from one can thinking that it's an energy drink, but it has alcohol in it, then you can become a candidate for an overdose."
Dr. Hogan says mixing energy drinks with anti-depressants can also result in a trip to the emergency room.
He says a few common signs of prescription drug abuse often include: an increase in apathy and drowsiness. Plus, a noticeable change in friends and the person's overall personality.
Weems is sponsoring a free parenting seminar on prescription drug abuse Tuesday night from 5:30 to 7:30 in Webb Hall on Meridian Community College's campus. To register call (601) 482-7445.