Utah health department launches opioid risks awareness campaign

During the teenage years, an individual usually experiences an irrepressible urge to be like a grown up, be independent and develop his/her own separate identity. While experiencing such feelings are normal signs of development, these could prove to be risky as well, since, often, teens become rebellious and experimental and end up abusing drugs or developing an addiction to illicit substances or even opioids.

Seeing the high number of teens addicted to prescription opioids, the Utah Department of Health in collaboration with the Utah Department of Commerce and the Utah Pharmacy Association have launched a month-long campaign in the state to increase awareness about the dangers of using opioids and ways to reduce their overdose risks. Kick-started on May 1, 2017, the campaign intends to encourage interaction between pharmacists and patients about several opioid risks.

According to the Utah Department of Health, the rate at which prescription opioids were dispensed in Utah grew by 30 percent from 2002 to 2015. Also, around 300 Utah residents died due to opioid overdoses in 2015.

Red stickers to warn patients

As part of the campaign, pharmacists have been encouraged to place red stickers with the label, “Caution: Opioid. Risk of Overdose and Addiction” on opioid bottles. The idea is to warn the patients about the risk associated with opioid overdose and addiction in order to reduce the number of opioid abusers and overdose deaths.

While commenting on the importance of understanding the risks of opioids, Angela Dunn, deputy state epidemiologist, said, “Given the high number of deaths associated with prescription opioids, understanding the risks of opioids is vital to patient safety.”

Talking about the campaign, Greg Jones, chairman of the Utah Pharmacy Licensing Board, said, “We hope that when people see these warning stickers, they will ask us about the medications they have been prescribed and what they should watch out for and do in case of a potential overdose.”

The pharmacists will answer any opioid-related queries patients may have, while filling prescriptions, such as the right way of using opioids. They will also provide an overdose-reversing drug called naloxone to those who are at risk of overdose.

Prescription drug addiction

Prescription drugs can only be recommended by doctors. Using these drugs for the intended purpose is fine but when someone starts using them for illicit purposes or in ways not prescribed by the doctor it could indicate an addiction. Often teens use such drugs to get high or perform better in studies and unknowingly get addicted to them.

Prescription drug addiction is a term that has been coined to refer to a situation when a person begins to use prescription drugs for the wrong reasons and not for the purpose it was prescribed. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), young adults in the age group of 18 to 25 years are the biggest abusers of prescription (Rx) opioid pain relievers, ADHD stimulants and anti-anxiety drugs.

Parents’ role crucial

There are a number of factors that might instigate a teen to abuse drugs. These could include curiosity, peer pressure, stress and emotional struggles. Once a teen develops an addiction he or she is likely to manifest emotional and behavioral changes. He may develop a dependence on the drug and as a result could end up engaging in risky physical relationships, have problems in daily life, face or develop learning disabilities or mental illnesses, and become more prone to car accidents.

Identifying such risky behavior is not tough for the parents though they should make sure they don’t dismiss any changes in their teen as normal behavior for that age. Some common signs that a teen is abusing drugs including opioids are bad grades at school, bloodshot eyes, loss of interest in activities, poor hygiene, avoiding eye contact, frequent hunger, secretive behavior and unusual tiredness.

If a teen at home is showing any such symptoms, it becomes the parents’ responsibility to help him or her recover. Parents should have open lines of communication with their teens so that his concerns can be addressed. They should be aware of his school performance, should encourage him to participate in activities such as sports and music, celebrate his accomplishments, express love and respect his opinion while offering him the required space.

Several preventive measures can also be taken to avoid the risk of prescription drug addiction. A few of these include keeping prescription medications such as painkillers, sedatives and stimulants locked in a cabinet, keeping a drug test handy, being involved in local anti-drug community groups, talking to the kids’ friends about their habits, and talking to the teen about the ill-effects of addiction.

Providing help

Providing the teen with the right kind of help at the right time is essential to avoid the risk of any major issues. Not keeping a track of the teen’s whereabouts can be a major threat that can lead to the development of inappropriate behavior, and thus, a number of mental and physical health issues.

While parents can take the necessary steps to help their child lead a healthy life, it is also the responsibility of the teens to understand the dangers associated with indulging in inappropriate behavior, such as poor school performance and the risk of developing mental health issues, to name a few.

If you or someone you know is seeking help for their troubled teen’s prescription drug addiction from one of the best therapeutic boarding schools, White River Academy can help. White River Academy is a troubled teen boarding school that can help a teen recover from an addiction, mental illness or both. A holistic environment that gives the teen an opportunity to explore his inner-self, as well as personal development, can enable the teen’s quick and lasting recovery.

Call our 24/7 helpline number or chat online with our representatives to connect with some of the best boarding schools for troubled teens in Utah.

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