Heath Ledger’s Death Should Serve as Warning of Growing Prescription Drug Abuse

The conclusion by the New York City medical examiner’s office that actor Heath Ledger died from an accident resulting from the abuse of prescription drugs will hopefully bring more attention to this tragically growing problem.

Oregon Partnership is calling for heightened prevention and education to reverse the national and statewide trend of prescription drug abuse.

According to the National Survey of Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), Oregon ranks 8th in the nation for the non-medical use of pain relievers, while Oregon youth (ages 12-17) rank fourth in the nation in the same category.

With so much attention on illegal drugs, the abuse of prescription drugs often doesn’t show up on the radar. It’s time that parents, lawmakers, and schools make education and prescription drug prevention a priority.

Parents especially, should be aware that because of prescription drugs are legal, there may be a false sense of security on the part of teenagers. As is the case with alcohol, most teens who abuse prescription drugs, get them from their parent’s medicine cabinets.

Like alcohol, too many prescription medications cloud one’s judgment, leaving an individual unclear about how much they’ve taken.  The result could be all too similar to the Heath Ledger tragedy.

According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, nearly one in ten high school seniors admit to abusing prescription painkillers, while 40 percent of teens and an almost equal number of their parents think abusing prescription painkillers is safer than abusing “street” drugs.

Nearly 7 million Americans are abusing prescription drugs – more than the number who abuse cocaine, heroin, hallucinogens, Ecstasy, and inhalants combined.  That’s an 80 percent increase in just six years.

In a statement issued by Ledger’s father, “Heath’s accidental death serves as a caution to the hidden dangers of combining prescription medication, even at low dosage.”

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