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Washington, DC — The nation’s emergency physicians are issuing a strong warning to parents about the dangers of prescription drug abuse, which are now the second most abused drugs, after marijuana. Nearly three-quarters of a million people (741,425) needed emergency care in 2006 because of prescription drug abuse.
“Often when you hear that someone has overdosed on drugs you think of illegal substances, such as cocaine or heroin,” said Dr. Angela Gardner, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians. “But parents need to know that many young people are taking prescription drugs from the medicine cabinets. Many of the kids wrongly believe the drugs are not addictive, and they don’t realize they can be lethal.”
The types of prescription drugs most commonly abused are painkillers, such as OxyContin, and Vicodin. Also, central nervous system depressants (or barbiturates), such as Valium and Xanax, are common. Twelve- to 14-year old girls are more likely than boys to have abused prescription drugs and to have higher rates of dependence.
Dr. Gardner said prescription drugs are only safe for the person they are prescribed for, and that is only if the patient takes them according to directions.
Abuse of prescription drugs can lead to physical dependence and addiction. Some depress breathing or slow down brain function. Some, if combined with other medications that cause drowsiness or with alcohol, can dangerous slow down heart rate and breathing. Stimulants, such as amphetamines, can cause anxiety, paranoia, dangerously high body temperatures, irregular heartbeat, or seizures.
Steps you can take to help avoid prescription drug abuse :
Different categories of drugs (stimulants, sedatives, opioids) have different symptoms, but here are some signs that your child may be abusing prescription drugs:
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MedicAlert Foundation pioneered the first medical identification and emergency medical information service in 1956 to provide people with a simple but effective method for communicating their medical conditions. Since the organization’s founding, MedicAlert Foundation has provided services and products that help to protect and save lives for its 4 million members worldwide. For more than 50 years, the nonprofit foundation has relayed vital medical information on behalf of its members to emergency responders so they receive faster and safer treatment. MedicAlert IDs alert emergency personnel to a member’s primary health conditions. In addition to its 24-¬hour emergency response service, MedicAlert Foundation also provides family and caregiver notification so that members can be reunited with their loved ones. For more information, visit www.medicalert.org.
ACEP is a national medical specialty society representing emergency medicine. ACEP is committed to advancing emergency care through continuing education, research and public education. Headquartered in Dallas, Texas, ACEP has 53 chapters representing each state, as well as Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. A Government Services Chapter represents emergency physicians employed by military branches and other government agencies.
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