Prescription Problem

schools and cops focus on drugs in your cabinet

Karrie Johnson

It’s highly addictive, and growing in popularity alongside methamphetamines, marijuana and other drugs. And it may be sitting right in your medicine cabinet.

Prescription drug abuse is on the rise in the United States, while many of those users are teens and young adults. The Partnership for a Drug-Free America estimated in a recent study that one in five teenagers (4.3 million) admit to using the prescription pain killer Vicodin, while one in 10 (2.3 million) tried OxyContin. One in 10 teens admits using Ritalin and Adderal.

It’s a problem Chippewa Valley area schools, and other officials are taking note of. Jean Christenson, Student Services Department staff member for the Eau Claire Area School District and Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs (ATOD) Prevention Coordinator says the district is taking steps to keep the problem under control.

“We are certainly taking efforts to create awareness around the issue to keep use low,” Christenson said. “While we are hearing more about it, the abuse of prescription drugs in the Eau Claire area is very low.”

On April 22, Christenson and other area agencies held a forum, “Bad Medicine.” Topics included prescription drug abuse in schools, the dangers of mixing prescription medications, consequences for being cited for prescription drug abuse, and what our community can do to eradicate the problem. The event also featured a medication drop-off, giving Chippewa Valley residents the opportunity to dispose of their old and unused medications.

Christenson also worked on a survey, given to 2663 students in grades 6, 8, 10 and 12 within the Eau Claire Area School District. When asked how many times students had taken prescription drugs, 90 percent hadn’t, while 92.1 percent hadn’t used over-the-counter drugs to get high. When asked about their non-medical drug use, 10 percent had taken a prescription drug without a prescription at least once in their life, 7.9 percent had taken over-the-counter drugs to get high at least once in their life, and 4 percent had taken OTC medications recreationally in the past month.

Julie Keown-Bomar, family living educator for UW-Extension, was involved with “Bad Medicine,” and says the event “netted 128 pounds of unwanted prescription medication and helped to promote community awareness about prescription drug abuse.” Keown-Bomar believes prescription drug abuse has indeed become a bigger problem in our area in recent years.

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