Prescription drug abuse is a growing public health concern. With the increasing number of pain killers prescribed, easy access to these drugs is a factor in the increase in abuse levels in recent years.
Prominent among the abusers are young people.
"It's easier for them to get into mom and dad's medicine cabinet than to buy beer, or even get marijuana," said Dr. Lin Hogan, clinical therapist and certified advanced addiction counselor at Weems Community Mental Health Center, Division of Children and Youth.
"But kids are being kind of ignorant to the perils, the dangers and the strength of these drugs ... They think, 'Well, the doctor prescribed them, so they are safe.' But that's not true. Used wrongly, these drugs can be very dangerous, even deadly," Hogan said.
Hogan is the presenter of the upcoming Free Parenting Seminar "Stopping More than the Pain: The Perils of Prescription Drug Abuse," which is sponsored by Weems Community Mental Health Center and Meridian Community College.
About 15 percent of the United States population is going to have some type of addictive problem. In Mississippi, addictive illnesses impacts about 10 percent of our population or 250,000 Mississippians.
"A significant number of people in our community are impacted by these type problems," Hogan said. "And there are collateral affects — indirect affects on family and ultimately the community, which is also of concern as far as treatment."
But why the increase in prescription drug abuse? While the reasons are many, Hogan describes it as a "trickle down affect."
"One way you can look at it is our medical technology has advanced, Baby Boomers are getting older, we're living longer but we're having to live longer with chronic pain conditions. There are literally hundreds of millions of pain pill prescriptions written each year. There's approximately 80 to 100 million chronic pain patients in this country, and the numbers keep going up each year," he said.
"These pain patients are seeking relief, the doctors are doing everything they can, but they are also writing prescriptions – and they are supposed to do. There are more pain pill prescription being written than ever in the history in our country, or the world. Ultimately what happens is there's more availability of these drugs than ever before."
Hogan said doctors and mental health professionals are trying to raise awareness, break down barriers and walls and increase communication between providers and people in need.
"We're trying to de-stigmatize, take the stigma away," he said. "This is affecting a lot of people. Most, if not all people in any community will say that they have had some type of affect, have had to endure some type of negative repercussion either directly or indirectly related to some type of substance abuse or addiction."
Participants in the Free Parenting Seminar on "The Perils of Prescription Drug Abuse" will:
• Learn why abuse of prescription and over-the-counter drugs by youth has overtaken abuse of all other illicit drugs, except marijuana
• Obtain information about the danger of prescription misuse and abuse
• Learn about practical steps and resources you can use in your family and community
Parents are especially encouraged to attend the seminar.
"We need the parents and other members of the community to attend," Hogan said. "At previous Parenting Seminars there has been lot of medical providers and students in attendance, but only a handful of parents. A lot of times parents will feel stigmatized just sitting in that room with all those people. But they need to know that they are not alone in being affected by substance abuse; everybody has been directly or indirectly affected. We need to de-stigmatize and open the lines of communication so we can try to help."
Want to go?
What: Free Parenting Seminar: "Stopping More than the Pain: The Perils of Prescription Drug Abuse
When: Feb. 26, from 5:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m.
Where: Dulaney Room, Webb Hall, Meridian Community College (intersection of 14th Street and College Drive; entrance and parking in rear)
Presenter: Dr. Lin Hogan, clinical therapist and certified advanced addiction counselor at Weems Community Mental Health Center, Division of Children and Youth
Cost: Free, but pre-registration is required by calling Meridian Community College at (601) 482-7445.
Open to all. A certificate of attendance for 2 hours is available upon request.