A shocking addiction to the Rx

(UWIRE) The thought of entering the drug trade never really crossed my mind until this year. When getting ready for my wisdom teeth removal surgery, my dentist said he would carefully evaluate my recovery process and prescribe a painkiller, if needed. I left the clinic that day with a prescription for Vicodin. And a refill. No questions asked. Careful evaluation, indeed.

After the pain finally went away, I still had a few Vicodin pills left and mentioned it to a couple of friends who suddenly became very “interested” if I was looking to make a “profit.” My friends told me to take advantage of the pain and that it would be easy to get another refill if I pretended my pain had worsened. I could even get a stronger dose or a stronger drug. They were right; it would’ve been easy. After all, they had all done it themselves.

A recent study conducted at the University of Michigan found that about 20 percent of college students take prescription drugs for recreational purposes. According to the National Center on Alcohol and Substance Abuse at Columbia, from 1993 to 2005, the number of college students abusing tranquilizers like Xanax and Valium went up 450 percent. For opioids like Vicodin, the increase was 343 percent.

These medications, along with the stimulant Adderall and the painkiller OxyContin, are the new drugs of choice on campuses. It’s not a shock that there are students out there who like to experiment with various states of mind. It is a shock, though, that these prescription drugs are perceived to be nontoxic compared to coke and ecstasy.

Prescription pills are praised for working wonders against anxiety, pain and sleeping disorders. They are considered, in moderation, to be safe. But abusing these drugs is not at all uncommon, which quickly turns safe into tragic. In 2006, 16 million patients abused their prescription medications, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration. Further, painkillers are more likely to cause fatal overdoses than heroin or cocaine, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

When it comes to social acceptability, the line between illicit drugs and prescription pills is clearly cut, but I don’t snort it. Prescription drugs are more lethal, just as addictive and easier to find than the stuff the D.A.R.E. dog warned you about.

A friend stopped smoking pot after receiving a citation from university police. The next week he obtained a legitimate prescription for the painkiller Hydrocodone. He still has a drug problem, but this time it’s easier to hide. It would be difficult for Searle to monitor if a student is abusing his medication, or for NUPD to catch someone selling it to close friends.

That’s the rule of the trade: anyone with a prescription can be a dealer. You can lie to your doctor, buy it from your friend or steal it from your parents. If marijuana is the gateway drug, a prescription is an all-access drug pass.

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