Los Angeles — In response to new government data that shows drug deaths now outnumber traffic fatalities in the United States, Promises Treatment Centers of Los Angeles and Malibu have stepped up efforts to deal to deal with the core of the problem: prescription narcotic overdoses, particularly among young people.
Drugs exceeded motor vehicle accidents as a cause of death in 2009, killing at least 37,485 people nationwide, according to preliminary data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Fueling the surge in deaths are prescription pain and anxiety drugs that are potent, highly addictive and especially dangerous when combined with one another or with other drugs or alcohol. Among the most commonly abused are OxyContin, Vicodin and Xanax.
The new CDC data echoes research, released earlier this year by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, that teens are particularly vulnerable to prescription drug addiction with an estimated 1.9 million teens between the ages of 12 and 17 abusing doctor-prescribed medication.
To deal with the increasing problem, Promises Treatment Center has launched a public awareness campaign that urges parents to secure prescription painkillers that might be accessible to their children. Called "Lock The Cabinet" (LockTheCabinet.com), the campaign poses the question to parents, "Are you an accidental drug dealer?"
"Parents should know that addiction typically begins in the teen years. Teens are naturally curious, and may succumb to peer pressure. In some cases, teens may have undiagnosed behavioral issues that lead them to self-medicate. Ease of access to mood-altering drugs is directly correlated with rates of abuse. As parents, we do not want to make it easy by making these drugs readily available in unlocked medicine cabinets," said Dr. David Sack, CEO of Promises Treatment Centers and Elements Behavioral Health.
At LockTheCabinet.com, concerned parents can find information on the dangers and effects of prescription drug abuse, how to properly dispose of unused medication, and how to recognize signs of abuse or addiction.
In a related development, the American Society of Addiction Medicine, the nation's largest professional society of physicians dedicated to treating and preventing addiction, announced last week that it has formulated a new definition of addiction that more accurately reflects current research. Under the new definition, addiction is neither a choice nor a sign of weakness, but rather a chronic brain disease.
"The new ASAM definition is an important advance in the treatment of addictions," says Dr. Sack. "Our society is officially endorsing the view that addiction is no longer about drugs, but rather changes that take place in the reward circuitry of the brain."
ASAM estimates 23 million Americans are in need of substance abuse treatment but that only two million Americans actually seek help.