The Herald Bulletin

April 21, 2010

Teens casual about pill use

Students: Hydrocodone and oxycontin easy to find

By Christina M. Wright
The Herald Bulletin

ANDERSON, Ind. — An Anderson high school student takes four hydrocodones. She tries to walk, but her steps are unsteady. She skips classes just to stay seated and wait out the high.

“She knew that, if she took another one, she would die,” said the girl’s friend, 16-year-old Taylor Martin, who observed the girl do this several times. “They know that there’s a limit.”

Martin, the executive director of teen leadership group The Talented Tenth, said she doesn’t use drugs but knows peers who do. Local teens, she said, have joined the national trend of prescription drug use.

“Everyone knows it’s a danger to it, but I’m sure it’s more about the immediate satisfaction of it,” she said. “Everyone knows you can O.D. easily, but they don’t care.”

“Teens are turning away from street drugs and using prescription drugs to get high,” said the authors of a national study, “Teens and Prescription Drugs: An Analysis of Recent Trends on the Emerging Drug Threat.”

“The Consumption and Consequences of Alcohol and Drugs in Madison County,” a 2009 epidemiology survey, said Madison County teens prefer pain killers, although 97.5 percent of those surveyed noted that pain killers have a moderate risk to great risk.

Martin said students at Highland and Anderson High Schools prefer hydrocodones – used for pain relief and cough suppression – and oxycontins – used for pain caused by cancer, severe arthritis, sickle cell disease and nerve damage.

“Sharing hydros at Anderson or Highland is pretty much like sharing nail polish,” she said. “It’s just something that people share.”

Martin added that students have a fixed amount of the pills that they prefer to take at once, estimating how much they can take without overdosing.

“The point isn’t to kill yourself; it’s to get a little happy and be done with it,” she said.

A 16-year-old Anderson high school student said he used hydrocodones for about two weeks because they were easy to obtain. He said he’d seen videos about the dangers of prescription drugs but wasn’t affected by the possibilities.

“I don’t really care about what they can do to me,” he said. “It’s just the fact that I can use them.”

The teenager added that he quit taking the one to two pills because “I don’t feel anything.”

According to the two teenagers who spoke candidly about high school drug use, Anderson teens have refrained from one national prescription drug trend.

The “pharm parties” – a term for parties where teens bring and share prescription pills – that have made national news are not popular locally, they said. Martin said parties with drugs present usually feature a range, such as pills, marijuana and cocaine.

“You know what you take and no one’s going to take anything that you don’t know what it is,” she said.

Meanwhile, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, prescription drugs – including pain killers – can lead to addiction.

Madison County Judge Thomas Newman, who presides over the county’s drug court for offenders with addictions, said his adult clients have a hard time shaking prescription drug addictions.

“We’re having an awful time with people who get addicted to it,” he said.

Newman added that younger clients have had an even harder time kicking prescription drug habits.

“It may be because their perspective is so different than the older ones,” he said. “The older ones can look back and remember what life was like when they were clean. Younger people may tend to think they’re invincible.”

The Madison County survey said arrests for dealing counterfeit drugs – which includes prescription drugs – rose 123.6 percent in the past year. Martin said the sell-price is alluring to teenagers.

“You can go through your grandparents’ medicine cabinet and you can sell them for like five bucks a pill,” she said.

Newman said that relatives’ medicine cabinets aren’t the only place addicts seek pills.

“They forge prescriptions, commit burglaries of people’s homes and raid the medicine cabinets,” he said. “When people leave the pharmacies, they actually rob them and take their medications.”