Approximately 23 million Americans age 12 or older, or roughly 9 percent of the population in this age group, are current illicit drug users. These substances include, but are not limited to, marijuana/hashish, cocaine (including crack), heroin (opiates), hallucinogens and inhalants, as well as the nonmedical use of prescription-type pain relievers, tranquilizers, stimulants and sedatives.
Approximately 6 million Americans report that they currently use prescription drugs for nonmedical purposes. While most young people refrain from using illicit drugs, an estimated 1 in 10 youth ages 12 to 17 are current illicit drug users.
Drug use among people of all ages is dangerous because it can lead to addiction, reduced self-control and impaired decision-making, in addition to other serious physical consequences. Some drugs can alter the brain in ways that persist after the person has stopped taking drugs, a condition that may be permanent.
Using illicit drugs and misusing prescription drugs can have severe health consequences. Side effects of illicit drugs, including depressants and stimulants, can include: blurred vision, hallucinations, delirium, dangerous levels of dehydration and overheating, feelings of sadness, anxiety and depression (which can include suicidal thoughts), thinking and memory difficulties, slowed pulse and breathing and respiratory depression. However, the health effects from illicit drugs do not stop there. Using or abusing illicit drugs can result in more serious consequences, such as blood clots, liver and lung disease, heart failure, coma and death.
Combining prescription drugs with alcohol or other drugs can also lead to heart failure, seizures, stroke or arrhythmia, and can be lethal. When taken as prescribed by a doctor or healthcare provider, prescription drugs are safe and effective. But all medicines have risks when misused or abused. It’s important to follow directions on dosages and how often to take these drugs, and never take any medication that’s prescribed for someone else.
Drugs can impair perception, cognition, attention, balance, coordination, reaction time and other capabilities needed for daily activities such as driving. Operating a vehicle under the influence of drugs puts the safety of drivers, passengers, pedestrians, and others on the road at risk.
With the recent release of the 2013 National Drug Control Policy, it offers us a blueprint on how we can work together with our federal partners to help address these issues locally. While some abuse of substances has declined, we still have a long way to go before we completely tackle all issues surrounding substance abuse. We, as a community need to come together and educate ourselves, and take steps to create a safe drug free environment for our families.
Parents, get involved in your child’s day-to-day activities and discuss the risks of using illicit and prescription drugs. By being involved early and consistently, you can help prevent problems before they occur. Parents should also securely store prescription drugs and dispose of unused supplies.
Workplaces, drug-free workplace programs can help employers create cost-effective, safe and healthy workplaces. Studies have indicated that successful drug-free workplace programs generally have at least five key components: a written policy, employee education, supervisor training, an employee assistance program (EAP) and drug testing. Before considering these five components, employers should examine the needs of their organizations and take steps to ensure that the programs they design will work well in their workplaces.
The mission of the GRAAB Coalition (Going Respectively Against Addictive Behaviors) is to bring together concerned members and service providers of the community to facilitate lowering the misuse of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs, as well as other addictive behaviors, in Bradley County, by providing effective education, recovery and support for youth, families and the community.
For more information on this topic, additional GRAAB programming or volunteer opportunities available from the GRAAB Coalition, call us at 423-472-5800 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit our website for regular updates as well at www.graabcoalition.com.
(Editor’s Note: Today’s National Prevention Week “Viewpoint” was written and submitted by Tanya Southerland, executive director of the GRAAB Coalition. Wednesday’s installment will feature “Prevention of Alcohol Abuse.”)