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Keep Your Kids Off Prescription Drugs

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In a statement released Thursday, the L.A. County coroner's office says actress Brittany Murphy died from pneumonia -- but prescription drugs also played a factor.

Brittany Murphy
The coroner revealed that in addition to suffering from pneumonia, the 32-year-old actress was severely anemic and had multiple drugs in her system. TMZ reports several of those drugs were prescription. While the drugs did not kill her, a source tells TMZ they "pushed her over the line," adding her tragic death was "preventable." This raised the question about to prevent our kids from abusing prescription drugs. We went to one of our experts -- here's what she had to say.

Dr. Alanna Levine: Most parents know to be concerned about cigarettes and alcohol. But these days, kids have found another way to get high -- painkillers and other prescription drugs are being abused at record levels.

Second only to marijuana, prescription medications are the most common drugs teenagers use to get high. In fact, nearly 1 in 5 teenagers reports having used a prescription medication that was not prescribed to them at least once in their lifetime.

A review of the National Poison Center data from 1995-2008, published in the August issue of Pediatrics, found a significant increase in calls regarding the abuse of medications used to treat Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), specifically amphetamines (Adderall and Vyvanse) and methylphenidates (Ritalin).

ADHD affects roughly 8-12% of children worldwide, and recently the numbers have been rising. The more adolescents treated for ADHD, the greater the access teens have to ADHD medications, and the greater the potential for abuse. This does not just apply to those adolescents who obtain pills illegally from their friends or otherwise; studies have found that many adolescents who are prescribed the medications by a doctor may ultimately end up abusing them.

The main reason teens abuse ADHD medication is because it improves their ability to focus and stay awake and alert while studying. Some also use it to suppress their appetite, a side effect of these medications. This can contribute to other psychological disorders like anorexia.

It is important to note that drugs like Adderall and Ritalin are very safe and effective when used properly. They do, however, require medical evaluation prior to starting them, and frequent monitoring. This is why they fall into the category of controlled substances, and pharmacists can only dispense a 30-day supply at a time.

What should parents know?
1. Be aware of the increasing incidence of abuse.
2. Talk to your teens about the risk of sharing medications.
3. Be aware of how many pills are in the bottle, and monitor frequently.
4. Be wary of physicians who simply refill prescriptions without a proper evaluation.
5. Know the number for Poison Control (in the U.S., (800) 222-1222) in case of an emergency.

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5 comments so far | Post a comment now
Vania February 5, 2010, 12:45 AM

Why don’t you just keep your kids away from television and limit their physical friendships to kids whose parents do the same? Children who watch their parents disregard the media tend to emulate the same contempt and won’t be interested in the psychoses that lead people to such preventable trauma.

b February 5, 2010, 5:14 AM

it also is helpful when mom herself isn’t loaded up on valium; a little harder for your kids to get their hands on rx drugs if they’re not in your own medicine cabinet.

Cheryl February 8, 2010, 3:49 AM

I don’t see why this young lady was even mentioned in this article. It is clear that she had complicated health issues that were, and still have not been, disclosed to the public. A source that says the prescription drugs played a role in her death is like saying my grandma died of old age, but her blood pressure medicine may have played a role. Shoddy, very shoddy.

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