Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Heath Ledger's Death is Worth Talking About

The entertainment world was rocked to the core yesterday afternoon, January 22, when the news of actor Heath Ledger’s death was announced. His body was discovered in his home, and it was surrounded by dozens of prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) medications. Although no illegal or illicit substances were found, it’s plausible to presume that his demise was caused by an accidental overdose of the sleep aid, Ambien, and possibly some other medications. He was only 28 years old.

When the media spotlights these sorts of incidents, what can we learn? Should we shrug it off and attribute this to yet another example of the sins of the Hollywood scene? Or does this event mirror that which is going on in the homes of middle-class suburbia?

According to recent findings, [1] illicit drug use among teens is declining. From 1996 to 1997, the rate of illicit drug use by 8th graders was cut nearly in half. Use of drugs such as methamphetamines, amphetamines, crystal meth, and marijuana has dropped from 24% to 13%. This is good news!

Unfortunately, there’s bad news as well. Prescription drug abuse is on the rise; specifically, narcotic pain relievers are being sought after by teens. Where are they getting them? From their parents’ medicine cabinets and pharm parties. The most dangerous aspect of illegal use of prescription narcotics is the effect they have when combined with other similar drugs and alcohol.

Parents, your teens have almost certainly heard about Heath Ledger’s death by now. Use this as an opportunity to talk to them about the dangers of drug abuse, and the importance of taking all medications, prescription or OTC, exactly as directed. Also, take inventory of your own prescription medications, and make sure you store them in a safe place as described in a previous article. If you are struggling with your own addiction to prescription medications, take action now to get help; your kids are watching.

[1] Johnston, L. D., O'Malley, P. M., Bachman, J. G. & Schulenberg, J. E. (December 11, 2007). "Overall, illicit drug use by American teens continues gradual decline in 2007." University of Michigan News Service: Ann Arbor, MI.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The highly popular sleep medication ambien is used for short term sleep treatment only, i.e. for 7 to 10 days and it is known that Ambien is a prescription-based drug and hence should be used only after getting hold of a doctor’s prescription. Use Ambien as per the instructions of the doctor to cure your sleep problems and bear in mind that this medicine is likely to become ineffective if used for a long term and hence the use of this drug should be strictly supervised by a physician.