He presses the little white pill into her hand and says, “Ever had an Oxy?”
She stares at the pill in her palm; a small, harmless looking thing.
Sensing her hesitation, he says, “I stole it from my Mom’s medicine cabinet. It’s not like I’m some drug dealer or anything.”
She smiles shyly up at him, not wanting to act like a loser in front of an
upperclassman. As a starter on the high school’s soccer team she rarely drinks and stays away from illegal drugs like ecstasy, heroin and cocaine.
“Don’t worry,” he says. “It doesn’t make you act all drunk or anything. It just, like, takes away pain, you know?”
How bad can it be, she thinks as she pops the pill in her mouth, if it was in his Mom’s cabinet?
This scene seems, on the outside, like one from my own high school years. Except instead of an Oxy, it was a drink pressed into my hand.
The desire to seem cool was the same, as was the fact that we raided some parent’s stash to get it.
I couldn’t have known back then that I would become an alcoholic, and that it would take me decades to shake the grip alcohol had on my life. All I knew back then was that everyone I knew was drinking, even the athletes and the A students, and it didn’t seem like that big of a deal.
Sure, there were campaigns aimed at educating us about drugs and alcohol. Mostly they told us “just don’t do it”. I listened to the lectures. I signed the contract saying I’d call my parents if I felt pressured to drink. The thing is? I just didn’t think the bad stuff applied to me. I don’t think many teenagers do, because they are hardwired to believe they are exempt from consequence.
Alcohol was everywhere, and occasionally something bad would happen to someone else, but I never thought it could happen to me.
I drank alcoholically for years without realizing I had a problem. Eventually, in my mid 30s, my drinking escalated to a point where I could barely function. I ended up in rehab at the age of thirty-seven, with two young children at home and one very fed up husband. It was a 30 day program, attended by those who had, generally speaking, not been successful at their other rehab attempts. I had two under my belt – each lasting less than two weeks, and drank almost immediately after coming home. The 30 day program was my last shot.
What struck me immediately, when I looked around the circle at my fellow patients, was how young everyone was. The average age of the 40 people in attendance was twenty-one. TWENTY-ONE. This rehab was packed with kids not even old enough to legally drink yet.
It didn’t take long for me to figure out that these kids were here because of prescription medicine abuse. Like me, they raided their parents’ and friends parents’ cabinets for their supply. Except these kids weren’t sneaking liquor – they were stealing pain killers and anti-anxiety medications left over from adults’ injuries, child births and various other ailments.
They also experimented with alcohol, but what brought them to their knees - in mere months - was prescription medicine abuse. A painkiller snuck here or there became a regular habit at parties, and as their need increased they found it readily available for purchase in every town. When their stash , or the money (prescription medicine bought on the street is expensive) ran out, these kids turned to heroin, meth or crack, more affordable ways to feed what had become a full blown addiction.
And that girl at the party who took the Oxy? It didn’t matter that she was an athlete, an A student and came from a stable home. She ended up, seven months later, with a needle in her arm, shooting heroin. She didn’t set out to end up there, any more than I set out to become an alcoholic after my first sip of beer.
Addiction doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t care about your ethnic, academic or economic background.
It is an epidemic, and it is everywhere.
The best way to combat this epidemic is to talk about it. Talk about it with your friends. Ask your kids if they know about medicine abuse. Just like you’d lock a liquor cabinet, lock or empty out your medicine cabinet and dispose of expired or unused medicines safely.
We cannot afford to turn a blind eye to this, thinking that somehow our kids are immune. The leading cause of accidental death in the United States is unintentional drug poisoning… even more than car accidents.
ONE in FOUR teens admit to misusing or abusing prescription medicines at least once in their lifetime, and more than 40% of teens get these prescription medicines from their parent’s supply. Twenty percent of teens abuse prescription medicines before the age of fourteen.
I sit in recovery meetings every week with people struggling to recover from prescription medicine abuse. Some of them are only in their mid teens, and all of them know someone who has died because of this epidemic.
We can do something about this, though, and it starts right here. Right now.
I was so honored to participate in a live-streaming event on Tuesday night, and it was an incredibly powerful and moving experience. These are women I admire and adore, and they all shared from their heart about their personal experiences with addiction and recovery.
You can watch these powerful videos in these three-part episodes in the links below (I am in Part Two):
You can read their posts by clicking on the links below. Their stories are incredible and inspiring:
Janelle Hanchett – http://www.renegademothering.com
Brandi Jeter – http://mamaknowsitall.com
Sherri Kuhn – http://oldtweener.com
Heather King – http://www.extraordinary-ordinary.net
Lyz Lenz – http://www.lyzlenz.com/
Judy Miller – http://judymmiller.com
Lisa Page Rosenberg – http://www.smacksy.com
Alexandra Rosas – http://www.gooddayregularpeople.com
Melisa Wells – http://suburbanscrawl.com
Together we are making a difference. One Story At A Time.
This post is sponsored by The Partnership at Drugfree.org as part of a blog tour with listentoyourmothershow.com in an effort to #EndMedicineAbuse