A Rise in Prescription Drug Abuse

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Categories: Drugs Make You Un-Smarter

by Bill Rogers, Arizona Highway Patrol Association

In Arizona, over half of our alcohol-related DUI's also involve prescription drug usage.

This post is a free excerpt from Drugs Make You Un-Smarter.

From a law enforcement point of view, illegal or unsupervised prescription drug usage is an epidemic. You would think that there are specific age or gender groups that it primarily focuses on, but it runs the gamut. The Arizona Highway Patrol Association is very passionate about helping parents do key things to keep these drugs away from children.

Stacey Dillon

In a new study from Arizona State University, they found a significant increase in the number of inmates who test positive for prescription drugs at the time of arrest. This study further states that the increase also points to those who are not in jail. University of Arizona researchers have conducted similar studies which predicted a rise in the crack epidemic in the eighties and the increase of meth use in the nineties.

The most common drugs abused by non-violent, white male offenders are opiates, such as heroin, and pain medications, such as Vicodin, OxyContin, Codeine, Demerol, and Darvon.

Leslie Bloom, CEO, Partnership for a Drug-Free America, Arizona affiliate stated,  “The upswing in arrestees testing positive for opiates is disturbing to see, but it’s a trend that mirrors our teen population. Here in Arizona, one out of four teens has abused a prescription pain reliever, which is double the national average. We encourage parents to do three things: Educate themselves on the prescription medicines kids are abusing; communicate the risks of abusing prescription medications to their children; and safeguard their medicine cabinets.”

The Arizona University study found that prescription drug abusers range in age from high school though college age, and also include adults.  These abusers come from wealthy as well as poor neighborhoods.

Bill Rogers from the Arizona Highway Patrol Association said: “It’s probably because of a lack of accountability on a personal level note. There’s a certain tolerance of this type of crime. I think it’s the availability of the drug itself, by legal and illegal means. I think it includes the rise of ‘latchkey’ children who are home alone, and have access to their parents’ prescriptions. It is also that society has gone to a medical route to deal with problems. The current economic times have caused so much stress that people get narcotics of their own. They have the feeling that one more won’t hurt.”

What does it mean that there are more inmates being tested positive for prescription drugs?

Rogers further states, “Of course we put people in the jail for DUI’s, and with DUI’s we see probably about 50% prescription drug/alcohol combination. “Masking,” is what we call it, when someone pops a couple pills and drinks a couple beers. Of course, when we stop them, we may only see the alcohol. They are arrested for DUI for alcohol, but they also have the narcotic drugs in them.” 

He continues, “It’s been going on for a couple of years. Because of manpower issues, we’re behind the eight-ball. We need to be able to recognize the symptoms of masking and have experts out there to counteract it. Another problem is that if we get a narcotic arrest, we do a blood test, and when it goes to our crime lab, which is undermanned, it takes sometimes six to eight months to get blood results. And so the conviction is way behind.”

The study also found that among inmates, the prescription drug problem is second only to marijuana use. Plans are in the works to legalize marijuana in the state of Arizona.  

“As far as marijuana, everybody’s yelling about the legalization of it. That’s just going to compound the problem, because marijuana has the same effects when you drive as alcohol. If you were to legalize marijuana, and bag up marijuana, alcohol, and prescription drugs—that would only create a worse problem. Of course, marijuana is a stepping stone to further narcotic use,” says Bill Rogers, Highway Patrol

 “One of the ways to stop your kids from using drugs is to keep your kids active. Be aware of what your kids are doing, who they’re hanging out with, and where they’re going. Remember the old days when you used to have to lock up the alcohol? Lock up your drugs. Be aware of the behavior patterns of your children. Watch for things like dropping grades in school,” Rogers concluded.

Information used With permission from Stacey Dillon, Public Safety Authority Medias, LLC and Leslie Bloom, CEO, 

Partnership for a Drug-Free America, Arizona affiliate
(Now Partnership for Drug-Free Kids)

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