By: Taylor Rigney
It’s no secret that prescription drug abuse is becoming dangerously common among American high school students. The drastic increase can mainly be attributed to the growing availability of such drugs and the misconception that, because prescription drugs are prescribed by doctors, they are safe to use.
Lieutenant John Harless, who works for the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics notes this about that delusional belief: “There’s a big misconception that, because prescription drugs are made in a factory, prescribed by a doctor, and come in a nice package, they’re safer than a street drug. That’s just simply not true.” In fact, most prescription drugs, specifically narcotics, are nothing more than a derivative of heroin, which explains their strong potential for addiction. Harless also stressed that prescription drugs can be so harmful that people should be careful even when taking them as advised by a doctor. “[Prescription drugs] are legal and regulated when used as prescribed by a doctor, but I’m not even going to say they’re safe then, because of things like accidental overdose and drug interactions,” Harless said.
Lieutenant Harless urgently emphasized the catastrophic effects of mixing drugs with alcohol and/or other drugs. “Quite a large number of the drug facilitated sexual assaults that we deal with involve different mixtures of prescription drugs, sometimes intentional, sometimes not,” he said. Harless explained that poly-drug use and mixing drugs with alcohol result in short term amnesia and loss of muscle control, both of which make fighting back against an attacker extremely difficult.
Not only does poly-drug abuse increase a person’s vulnerability during an assault, but this irresponsible decision makes treatment for an accidental overdose nearly impossible. If a person doesn’t know or isn’t able to tell the doctor what kind of drugs he or she took, the doctor will not know how to treat him because different types of drugs require different treatments.
Once a person abuses or becomes addicted to prescription drugs, he or she begins a lifelong battle. If a person is ever convicted of drug use, overcoming the addiction is only the first step. “A drug arrest, even as a juvenile, is something that you quite often will not overcome for the rest of your life,” Harless said. “Academically, it is one of the most destructive things that can happen.” After a crime bill that was passed in Congress in the early 1990s, people who have been arrested of drugs at any point in their life cannot receive federal student loans or grants. “There’s also a pretty good chance you’ll have a hard time getting a job for the rest of your life,” Harless explained.
Jeff Shearer, who also works for the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics, stressed the importance of not waiting to help a friend whom you suspect of drug use. “Bad news doesn’t get better with time,” he said. “These things never work themselves out.”
Shearer and Harless both accentuated the potential significance of reaching out to those in our school who are abusing drugs. “As hard as it may be, going up and sitting with a person whom you normally wouldn’t sit with may be something that affects them for the rest of their life,” Harless said. “We talk to people all the time who say they tried to get out of using drugs when they were younger, but they couldn’t find people to hang out with that weren’t doing it.”