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Department of Behavioral Health Targets Teen Prescription Drug Misuse

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

For Immediate Release
November 29, 2017
   Contact:  Phyllis Jones (202) 631-3077

“More Harmful Than You Think” prevention campaign educates about the physical and mental harm of opioid use and prescription drug misuse

(WASHINGTON, DC) –The District of Columbia Department of Behavioral Health today announces the More Harmful Than You Think campaign to tackle the common misperception that prescription drugs are safer than other drugs, and educates teens and parents about the risks of physical and mental harm. The campaign also makes available safe medication disposal kits to reduce the chance of prescription drugs turning up in the wrong hands.

Studies show that the rise in misuse of prescription drugs is impacting teens. According to a 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 891,000 youth between the ages 12 and 17 misused opioids and 239,000 misused pain relievers in the year prior to the survey. Prescription drugs are seen by many as safer or less harmful than other kinds of drugs.  One in four teenagers believe that prescription drugs can be used as a study aid and nearly one-third of parents say they believe attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) medication can improve a child’s academic or testing performance—even if that child does not have ADHD.

Recent local surveys show that prescription drug misuse among District teens is an emerging concern. In a 2015 survey of high school students, 14 per cent reported using prescription drugs without a doctor’s authorization—with female students reporting the highest misuse. In another survey that same year, nearly 21 per cent of youth said their parents would not disapprove of them using prescription drugs for a non-medical purpose.

“We know prescription pills are often associated with positive feelings or popular images that hide the real physical and mental harm of misuse to our brains and our bodies, especially for young people,  said Tanya A. Royster, MD, Director of the Department of Behavioral Health. “We want to arm young people and their parents with information about how drugs affect the brain so they can make healthy choices.”

Prescription drugs have side effects in common with cocaine or heroin.  Stimulants may cause irregular heartbeat and dangerously high body temperatures. Opioids can cause drowsiness, nausea, and decreased breathing rate while depressants can cause slurred speech, shallow breathing, and disorientation. Moreover, as with any type of mind-altering drug, prescription drug misuse can impair judgment and decrease inhibition, putting teens at heightened risk for misusing other kinds of drugs or engaging in other risky behaviors.

This campaign also will provide information about the District’s laws regarding illegal opioids.

More Harmful Than you Think will primarily rely on social media including an interactive website to reach young people as a recent survey showed that 73% of youth often discuss drugs on social media. The campaign will utilize visible ads on the radio and metro buses.

Social Media: 
@DrugFreeDC (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook)