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Health Watch/Primola Timothy, MD

Adolescence and addiction

August 30, 2012
The Daily Mining Gazette

Narcotic pain killers have become prominent with celebrity deaths related to overdosing.

According to the CDC, Centers of Disease Control and Preventions, the prescription for narcotic pain relievers has increased and deaths due to overdose have tripled, leading to approximately 40 deaths a day. It is estimated that 1 in 20 Americans older than the age of 12 years take narcotics for non-medical use.

This is very disturbing. Until recent years, marijuana was the gateway drug to other drugs. Now it is prescription medication! These medications are more easily available. It is particularly concerning when the persons abusing these drugs are younger than the age of 18 years!

These wonderful lives that should be working toward their highest potentials in education, sports, relationships and personality building, are wasted away on something that is inanimate, unfeeling, nonbreathing piece of chemical composition! When adults become addicted, they have reached a point in life where they are responsible and aware. They have reached their full potential educationally and are employed, so theoretically, they can support their addiction. Their maturation is complete, so they are able to comprehend relationships, responsibilities, morality and mortality. Approach to dealing with adult addiction is very different from adolescent addiction.

Adolescent addiction is a very sensitive and tragic event. An adolescent is impulsive and prone to addiction, as experimentation is common. A child's brain is not fully developed and has many wirings, until young adulthood. These wirings get pruned off, as the child grows and experiences, to retain mathematics, reading and writing which are reinforced and learnt. The experience of good and strong family, associations, and experiences, skills for setting priorities and controlling impulses are important to be retained by the brain. The development of the frontal cortex of the brain is important as it is involved with processing abstract information and understanding rules, laws and social interaction. Addiction disrupts this development and the adolescent is left with a social and interpersonal handicap.

Adolescents procure medications from parents, relatives and grandparents. In the case of adolescent addiction, the responsibility falls heavily on the family to keep the medications in a safe place. Introduction of adolescents to prescription medications of addiction should be used with great caution, as addiction can cause loss of a budding life and what it could potentially achieve. Medications that are potentially addictive are:

Opiate/Narcotics: Vicodins, Hydrocodones, Oxycodones, Morphine, Methadone and Fentanyl Patches.

Benzodiazepines: Ativan, Xanax, Valium, Klonopin.

Amphetamines: Ritalin, Adderall.

This is a short list of addictive and mind altering medications. Once tolerance (the need for more medication to get the same effect) is reached, it leads to illegal substance of abuse such as heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine.

Treatment for addiction involves detox, rehab, relapse prevention and rehabilitation. This requires motivation and involvement of the adolescent and the family, as "Codependence" is a real problem. This means that the family makes adjustments in their life to accommodate the addiction and make allowances for disruptive and abusive behavior. They do this so that, by their being understanding and accommodating, the adolescent will return to previous behavior and give up addiction. However, drugs change the personality of the adolescent and tyranny ensues. The adolescent, who does not learn, starts stealing and develops other antisocial behavior and may lead to involvement with the law.

We are responsible for our children and their future, and to provide an environment where they can develop and live a healthy life and become productive members of society. We need to do all we are able to protect our adolescents from self-destruction.

Editor's note: Primola Timothy, MD, MA, MSC, MSN, ANP, is a family practice physician with Baraga County Memorial Hospital.



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