Commentary: Prescription drugs can spark an addiction

On April 3, Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens discussed her concerns about prescription drug abuse and heroin at the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce's monthly Wake Up! Newport event series.

I hope this article will be a wake up call for Orange County residents, especially parents. As a native to Orange County, who attended private school, I can attest to just how easy it is for teens to get themselves into trouble and on the wrong path. Even more so now since everyone they know is a text message away. Thankfully, my parents were always open and honest about the things I found myself confronted with in high school. If you are a parent, I hope you are doing the same with your own children


We live in one of the most affluent counties in the United States, sometimes considered "the bubble" or "The O.C." It is easy for us who live in Orange County to feel like problems don't exist here. This is just not true.

In 2013, some 187 individuals died form a prescription drug overdose. Most of the people who are affected are between the ages of 12 to 17 years old. Yes, your high school sons and daughters ages, all the way down to middle school. An eighth-grade boy overdosed on Vicoden just a few months ago in Laguna Niguel.


We can't point the finger and say these kinds of things don't happen here in cities like Newport Beach, because they do. There is an opioid epidemic in the United States, Orange County included. Opioids are a narcotic, once used for cancer patients, but now a typical class of drugs for pain relief, examples of opioids consists of morphine, Vicoden, Oxycontin, Demerol and methadone.

When adults talk to their teens about drug abuse, they usually aren't talking about the things they have in their own medicine cabinet. This needs to change.

Simply because it is prescribed by a professional does not mean it cannot be abused. Think about this scenario: If a teen is looking for a high, they may decide to look around their parents' medicine cabinet. They find Vicoden you don't notice because you have stopped taking it months ago and forgot to dispose of the bottle.

Once they have begun taking this they begin to like the high, but now they are all out of pills. They can't get a prescription themselves so they turn to friends to see if they can get some. This habit can get quite expensive, but they get plenty of money weekly from their parents so they can afford it.


At this point, they are addicted and will do anything to get a high. They learn that you can get a drug, for a much lower price with the same effect — heroin.

Now this teen is a heroin user. This is one way this problem can happen. Consider prescription drug use a gateway drug. Prescription drug abuse alone can be fatal, but can also lead to equally fatal, illegal drug use.

Please talk to your teens, and even middle school children, about the dangers of prescription drugs. Just because it came from a doctor does not make it safe for someone to use and ultimately abuse. Be open and honest about your concerns and the dangers out there.

Your son or daughter may have already lost a friend or classmate to this epidemic. Know what your kids are doing, whom they hang out with, and who their friends' parents are. Taking a passive approach to a huge problem is a disservice to your family and your child. Remember, addiction knows no race, gender, age or class.

If you are interested in taking action and knowing more, I advise you begin the conversation at home and to read up on bill House Resolution 672, the Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act of 2013.

This bill can be divided into sections, including subject matter on education, dosage, monitoring, and death tracking. All of which could help prevent abuse, protect consumers and help identify trends in overdose deaths.

MANDY MADDEN lives in Irvine.