June 04, 2014 - Part four in a series on prescription drug abuse
The abuse of prescription drugs touches people from all walks of life, including young people.
Doctors across the country are readily prescribing a variety of addictive drugs to adults and children alike. Drugs are being used to treat numerous ailments from pain to conditions like Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD).
Longtime pharmacist, and present Director of Pharmacy at a Michigan Psychiatric hospital Frank Granett, wrote a book called "Over Medicating Our Youth: The Public Awareness Guide for A.D.D. and Psychiatric Medications."
Granett said prescription drug abuse is a problem across the board, and it's not just adults facing the problem, it's our children too.
Granett said America should beware. Prescribing addictive drugs like Adderall or Ritalin, the most common drugs used to treat ADD, to the youth is a recipe for disaster. It is also a gateway to other drugs later in life.
"Adderall is given out like candy," Granett admits. "All we are doing is prematurely medicating with a powerful stimulant that works good in the beginning and makes everyone, parents and doctors happy."
Rather than medicating the upswing in children and young adults with aggressive behavior, Granett said America needs a different approach.
Just throwing a pill at a child may work at first, but the real problem need to be identified.
"We have to get to the underlying cause of problems. We have to find the root of the problem, whether there is problems in the home or school environment, or both, whatever the problem may be we need to find it and treat it."
Granett believes medicating someone is like throwing a Band-Aid on a gaping wound. It only helps temporarily and will lead to bigger problems later in life. Medicating is not meant to, and cannot, solve all problems and may even lead to bigger ones,.
"Medicating kids early in life leads to premature drug abuse later on," he said. "If you medicate a young child, over time, the likely hood goes way up they will develop and addictive personality. Not to mention the long-term health risks."
All medication has effects on both the body and mind.
Granett said an upswing in children and young adults with aggressive behavior is one reason that medication use has increased so much, but medicating is just a temporary fix.
America needs a wake-up call, and a change.
"We have been assessing using a 40-year old business model," said Granett. "That model is outdated and must be changed."
Joe (profiled in the last three editions of The Clarkston News) readily admits he will do almost anything to get his drug of choice, Vicoden, a narcotic pain pill. Although he said he would do almost anything, he said there are things he refuses to ever speak of.
"I know what it's like to be addicted to prescription drugs which I don't think could be as bad as some of the other drugs. Nevertheless it's bad," he said. "I can't imagine the things people would do if they were addicted to something like crack cocaine or heroin."
Abuse of prescription drugs is leading to a new wave of addict. Those switching from prescription drugs to a cheaper alternative-heroin.
Dr. Tim O'Neill of Clarkston Medical Group recalls a patient who will readily admit he is addicted to heroin. He has a very large abscess on his body that won't heal because of drug use.
"It's really very sad," he said.
Most addicts end up in jail or dead, said Clarkston resident and addiction specialist Jim Evans.
According to the United States Bureau of Justice Statistics, nearly half, 48 percent, of all prisoners have been jailed because of a drug crime. Each year the United States spends over $64 billion on its prison system. An estimated 2.4 million people, or 1 in 4, are in jail or prisons in the U.S. for various crimes.
In 2000, about 1.9 people were imprisoned while in 2010 that figure rose to over 2.2 million. Also, over 4.8 million people are in programs like parole or house arrest. In addition to being the country that imprisons the most citizens, America is also the most medicated nation in the world.
Evans said America's prisons are overcrowded because of drug crimes-an issue he said does not get much attention by the media.
O'Neill said drug abuse should be treated more like a mental health issue. "We need to treat addiction as a medical problem," said O'Neill.
More on medicating the youth and prescription drug abuse in the next edition of The Clarkston News.
Staff writer covering Independence Township and Clarkston area.