Tackling an Epidemic
by Dale Guthrie, M.D., President of The American Academy of Pediatrics, Arizona Chapter
The abuse of prescription drugs and over-the-counter medicines is one of the biggest problems in Arizona today. Severe consequences of medicine abuse, such as trips to the emergency room, treatment admissions and overdoses resulting in death, have increased dramatically, and it is a behavior that is starting in the teen years.
Every day across our country, more than 2,000 teens use a prescription medicine to get high for the first time, and the death toll from prescription painkillers alone has tripled in the past decade.
To address this public health epidemic, DrugFreeAz.org has joined The Partnership at Drugfree.org to introduce The Medicine Abuse Project, a multi-year effort to raise awareness and curb the abuse of medicine by teens and young adults. Launching during Medical Abuse Week, starting on Sept. 23 and ending on DEA National Prescription Take-Back Day, Sept. 29, the campaign will encourage and help parents and the public-at-large to help manage this problem, working toward the common goal of preventing half a million teens from abusing medicine within the next five years. As a healthcare provider, I encourage you to take the following five steps to help us stop an epidemic.
1. Safeguard your medicine. Keep prescription medicine in a secure place, count and monitor the number of pills you have, and lock your medicine up.
2. Safely dispose of your unused medicine.Take part in the DEA National Prescription Take-Back Day on Sept. 29. Learn more and find locations near you by visiting DrugFreeAz.org.
3. Educate yourself.Find helpful resources for parents and grandparents, health care providers, community and law enforcement officials and educators at MedicineAbuseProject.org.
4. If you are a parent, communicate the risks of prescription and over-the-counter cough medicine abuse to your kids. Children who learn a lot about the risks of drugs from their parents are up to 50 percent less likely to use drugs than those who do not get that critical message at home. Conversation starters for families can be found at DrugFreeAz.org.
5. Get help.If you think your child has a problem with prescription medicine abuse, call The Partnership at Drugfree.org’s Parents Toll-Free Helpline to speak with a parent specialist at 1-855-DRUGFREE (1-855-378-4373).
Dale Guthrie, MD, Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics (FAAP), is the president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Arizona Chapter. Dr. Guthrie opened Gilbert Pediatrics in 1988, the first pediatric office in Phoenix suburb. The fourth generation Arizona native and Arizona State University graduate received his medical degree at the Universidad Autónoma de Ciudad JuárezInstitute of Biomedical Sciences. Dr. Guthrie completed his residencies at the Moses H. Cone Memorial Hospital in Greensboro, N.C., the Phoenix Hospitals Affiliated Pediatric Program at Maricopa Medical Center and Phoenix Children's Hospital. In his free time Dr. Guthrie enjoys gardening, ATV riding, ASU athletics, church activities and spending time with his wife, Jo Ellen, six adult children and experiencing grandparenthood.