Prescription drugs are more accessible for high schoolers to acquire than a 12 pack of beer, according to Drug Enforcement Agent Ryan Lawyer.
The DEA Agent was a speaker at a seminar hosted by S.A.V.E. held Saturday in Rolla. S.A.V.E was started by Gail and Craig Daniel to help people overcome addiction and prosper in their lives in honor of their daughter, Veronica, who started off by taking pain pills that eventually turned into using heroin.
The perception of society viewing all prescriptions as “good,” is the primary problem leading to the addiction of prescription pills, which in turn leads people to the cheaper alternative of prescription pills; street drugs.
The problem is by the time people get to heroin among other street drugs, it’s the end result, yet the discussion of prescription opioids and other prescription medications has been hidden under a veil of positivity, since the pills are prescribed by doctors, according to Lawyer.
“Basically all other drugs out there whether it is coke, meth, heroin -- prescription drugs are being abused just as much as all of them combined,” said Lawyer.
The perception is no one thinks cocaine and meth are safe, but a lot of people don’t realize the abuse of prescribed prescription drugs leads to accidental overdoses across the nation.
“We are seeing people who are addicted to opiates who have never smoked marijuana because in their mind they are never going to take an illegal drug because they are bad for you,” said Lawyer.
At the same time, people are going to their doctor and getting operated on, and their doctor prescribes them a 30-day supply of Hydrocodone, and they take the whole 30 day supply and become addicted to the medication.
“We go out on the street and try to get some more pills, and at some point a pill off the street costs $50 to $80 -- and who can afford that a couple of times a day -- so at that point they are so addicted they have to go and buy heroin,” said Lawyer.
The same can be said about vaping that is positively viewed by students compared to cigarettes because of misguided perception Lawyer sees when visiting schools.
“When I go to schools and talk to some of the kids, I’ll ask them how many of you guys are going to smoke cigarettes when you get older, and they don’t raise their hands because they think cigarettes will kill you,” said Lawyer.
And when Lawyer asks students to raise their hands if they vape, they raise them without worry because they have the perception that vaping is not even close to how bad cigarettes are.
“Cigarettes give you lung cancer, and vapes are not even close, and their perception of cigarettes is that they are very deadly, and their perception of vaping is that it is not dangerous -- that is the same thing with all the other drugs,” said Lawyer.
Students also misjudge the percentage of prescription pill use in the U.S. compared to other nations, where the startling statistic is that the U.S. only takes up 5 percent of the world’s population, but the U.S. uses 99 percent of the world’s Hydrocodone and 85 percent of the world’s Oxycodone, according to Lawyer.
Raising awareness to help change the perception on prescription medicine is what agent Lawyer is continuing to do because of the surge in youths taking pills from friends and families medicine cabinets when they don’t know the dosage of the pills. Lawyer explained the reason doctors weigh their patients is to actually see what particular dosage a patient should take of a medication.
“Until we change perception where everyone realizes that these drugs are dangerous just like they have the perception that cigarettes are dangerous we are going to have problems,” said Lawyer.