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Silent Killer

by Carey Pena

azfamily.com

Posted on September 11, 2009 at 7:39 PM

I have been such a bad blogger. Basically I haven't blogged in months (don't tell my boss). My excuse is that time has gotten away from me. I got married on New Year's Eve and I feel like I am just now (three months later) finding some respite.

The thing is, today I am moved to take time to blog because I'm working on a story that blows my mind.

It has to do with prescription pills and what is now considered to be an epidemic (considered by doctors, pharmacists, lawmakers to be an epidemic, to be clear).

I am told by The Partnership for a Drug Free America that one in 10 8th graders and one in five 12th graders report using prescription drugs to get high. he Partnership surveyed more than 40,000 kids for this study. They call it a Silent Killer.

The prescription pills of choice are anti-anxiety pills like Xanex (which kids call xandy bars), pain pills like Oxycontin and sleeping pills like Ambien. It is not to say that these are not good medications when used properly. However, it seems pretty clear that these drugs are being misused at an alarming rate.

The death of Heath Ledger brought to light the magnitude of this problem. Authorities found two forms of pain medication, two kinds of anti-anxiety medication and several sleep aids in his Manhattan apartment. His death is a tragedy, to be sure. But there are thousands of nameless faceless people who suffer a similar fate. We just don't hear about their stories on the evening news.

I met a woman whose 18-year-old son died in much the same way as Heath Ledger. He, too, abused prescription pills; he went to sleep and never woke up. It is especially painful to know that your child dies a preventable death. I see in this mother's eyes not just pain, but deep anguish. She wonders if there was something more she could do. Trouble is, the outward signs of abuse are not always apparent. There is no smell on the breath; there is not always a clear sign of impairment. Remember, we're talking about anti-anxiety medication, pain pills and sleep aids here. It's much harder to detect if a child is using. Or more specifically: abusing.

Many people say we have become a pill-popping nation. Be that as it may, the issue at the heart of this story is failure to understand the interaction of all of these popularly abused pills and the adverse effects they can have on your body.

There could be nothing worse than to be a parent who thinks that your child is walking the straight and narrow, only to find that your child has died in his or her sleep after taking a combination of drugs -- all of which are perfectly legal.

You can see my story on Good Evening Arizona tonight at 5:00. Or you can see it on my video archive page.

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