A Hard Pill to Swallow

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A Hard Pill to Swallow

Photo taken from Pixaby under Creative Commons LLC

Photo taken from Pixaby under Creative Commons LLC

Photo taken from Pixaby under Creative Commons LLC

Grace Rutledge, Reporter

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Arkansas is ranked second in the nation for the number of opioid pills prescribed, and Crittenden County is one of the worst areas. In 2015, 186 people died from opioid abuse in Arkansas alone. While the Arkansas state governor, Asa Hutchinson, is working to reduce these statistics, it takes active citizen participation to truly solve this problem.

According to a recent Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study, research shows that deaths from prescription opioids – drugs like oxycodone, hydrocodone and methadone- have more than quadrupled since 1999.

Most of this stems from doctors overprescribing medications on normal procedures for adolescents, such as having wisdom teeth removed or having a surgery from sports-related injuries. It is then easy for a teen to become addicted to these pain relievers.   

In 2015, there were 270,000 adolescents who abused several different types of prescription painkillers. That is a large number, especially when comparing it to the 20,000 teens who used heroin that year. The drastic difference in these two numbers lies in the fact that most teens see prescription painkillers as “less dangerous” than heroin, and these opioid pain pills are much more easily accessible.  

Even after a teen runs out of their own prescription pills, many access them from a relative or a friend at school. Of teens that abuse prescription pain pills, 70 percent stated that they obtained them from their household medicine cabinet. The most common prescriptions to be abused are “feel good” drugs such as Xanax, Vicodin and Adderall. Sadly, the most susceptible age to abuse these drugs is 12 to 13.   

In 2017, Governor Hutchinson passed a law that will force doctors to check and document a prescription each time they write it. This will help doctors know if patients are receiving prescriptions from multiple doctors and will help combat the dangerous side effects that many of these drugs cause.

Side effects of unnecessarily taking these drugs include but are not limited to:

  • Seizures
  • Kidney damage or failure
  • Brain damage
  • Heart palpitations
  • Anxiety/panic attacks

There are several ways to prevent prescription drug abuse from happening. It has been proven that teens whose parents teach them the dangers of drug abuse are 50 percent less likely to use them. Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge is building a program she calls “Prescription for Life” for central Arkansas high schools. The focus of the program will be informing students who may have misguided beliefs about the dangers of prescription drug abuse.

More information about the Prescription for Life program can be found at the link below.


It needs to be made clear that these drugs are every bit as harmful as other illegal drugs. Research shows that adolescents who are involved in some extracurricular activity they enjoy are less likely to abuse prescription pain pills.

Most importantly, hold friends accountable.

While the crime of drug possession for a teenager and adult are the same, the cases are handled differently. There is a wider range of options when handling a juvenile offender. Additionally, there are several different types of treatment facilities for each specific opioid addiction case.

A common type of treatment specifically for opioid users is naltrexone. This is an opioid blocking medication that keeps the “good” effects of the drug from taking place in an attempt to discourage use. Treatments like this are only useful for patients that want to recover.

In any event of abuse, one should never hesitate to reach out to a hotline or doctor for help and treatment.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Hotline is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. This hotline is completely confidential and is available in both English and Spanish. The number is listed below.