If a medication is legal, that doesn’t mean it isn’t harmful. Some prescription medications, if taken by people they are not prescribed for, can be as addictive and deadly as any street drug.
That was the message delivered by Raquel Reyna of the Parker Area Alliance for Community Empowerment May 17 at the Wallace Dome. Speaking to parents at the presentation, she said parents and guardians need to talk to young people about the dangers of using medications that are not prescribed for them.
PAACE is the local anti-drug coalition, representing government entities, schools, service organizations, and churches. They organize the annual Red Ribbon Week celebration in late October.
According to the 2022 Arizona Youth Survey, which is conducted every two years by the Arizona Criminal Justice Commission, 1 in 25 8th, 10th and 12th graders in the state have taken prescription medications not prescribed for them.
Reyna said that, in La Paz County, that figure is 1 in 14.
Reyna said parents are the first line of defense against drug abuse, including abuse of prescription drugs. One of the major reasons young people don’t do drugs is they know their parents would not approve. The Arizona Youth Survey found 53 percent of Arizona young people have never had their parents talk to them about drugs.
“You need to have this conversation before it’s too late to have this conversation,” Reyna said.
Many prescription pain medications are opioids, and they are addictive and one can overdose on them.
A major concern at this time is fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that is easy to manufacture and 50 times more potent than heroin. This drug was originally developed for pain following major surgeries and “end of life” pains for cancer patients. Even very small amounts can be deadly.
Reyna said much of the fentanyl coming into the United States is being made in Mexico, and about 80 percent of it comes through Arizona.
When young people illegally purchase prescription medications, they may think they’re buying drugs like Oxycontin or Xanax. What they’re actually buying are counterfeit pills laced with fentanyl. Drug dealers use fentanyl in this manner because it is so addictive, they know they will have return customers.
Reyna said cell phones and social media have become common ways for young people to purchase drugs illegally. She specifically mentioned Snapchat and Instragram. She said it’s important for parents to monitor their children’s activities on social media. They need to monitor what sites they’re visiting, who they’re interacting with, and what they’re posting.
Many young people who abuse prescription medications get their drugs from their parents’ medicine cabinets or others who have had them prescribed for them. Reyna said there are several ways to prevent these drugs from being stolen and misused. These include storing them in a secure location, explaining to children and young people what they are for and why they should stay away from them, and disposing of any old, unused medications that are beyond their expiration date.
Old medications can be disposed of by using drop boxes like the one in the lobby of the Parker Police Department.
Reyna also talked about what to do if you encounter someone who had overdosed on opioids. The medications Naloxone and Narcan can be given to someone who has overdosed and can temporarily block the effects of the opioids. Reyna said opioids can block breathing, and these two medications can counteract that.
Reyna said emergency services, like police and EMS, should always be called whenever someone is having an overdose. She said some people are hesitant to call the police as they are afraid they may be arrested themselves if they report someone having an overdose. She said Arizona has a “Good Samaritan” law that states no one can be arrested for simply reporting an overdose or helping someone who has one.
Acknowledging that talking with young people can be awkward for some parents, Reyna said PAACE has a booklet offering ideas on how to get the conversation started and the follow-up. This booklet, “Keep Them Safe,” is produced by the Arizona Substance Abuse Partnership through the Governor’s Office of Youth, Faith and Family. Copies are available at Players Ninth Street Youth Center, which is located at 1309 W. 9th Street in Pop Harvey Park.
For more information, contact PAACE at 928-669-0175.
Welcome to the discussion.
Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.