Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

These kids today, I just don't know . . .

A couple of weekends back I had the chance to party down at Sally O'Brien's, which has kicking bar bands on Saturday nights and a crowd of people who are, ahem, kinda like my age. This was a lot of fun, particularly because every time I go to a club where the young folks hang, at some point during the evening a kid will pass out and try to save himself by grabbing my leg on the way down. Then he barfs on my shoes. The fogies at Sally's, I'm happy to say, might have had a drink or two or six but they managed to stay more or less vertical and did not emit any noxious bodily fluids.

So what's going on? The new annual survey sponsored by NIDA, called Monitoring the Future (not out yet, but described by Bridget Kuehn in the new JAMA, off limits to you worthless rabble, I'm sorry to say) explains. It covers adolescents but these are the people who go on in five or six years to hang on my pants in night clubs. It turns out that while the rate of self-reported illicit drug use among the youth of today is down (which mostly means fewer of them admit to smoking pot), abuse of prescription medications is way up. And we're talking, get this, hydrocodone, in other words pharmaceutical junk, brand name Vicodin. Almost 10% of 12th graders told a survey interviewer they had used Vicodin in the past year, and more than 3% said they had used oxycodone, which is even more powerful. Youch. One has to presume those numbers go up through the college years and beyond. Combine that with a few rum and cokes and you're puking on my shoes in no time.

Kuehn writes, "Another troubling aspect of teens' medication abuse is that they often take the drugs in combination, and the users themselves may not know what the combinations are, [NIDA Director Nora] Volkow said. She explained that teens may dump tablets they have acquired into a bowl at a party, and they and their friends sample the drugs."

Now I have to admit that in my college days we tried this and that, but the idea of taking something without knowing what it was would have seemed insane to us. Furthermore, nobody but a few major losers would go anywhere near opioids. We had certain standards, and we considered that shit just plain scary. Who wants to be a junky? I might also add that it just wasn't around. Ten percent of high school seniors doing Vicodin? I mean, we're talking a huge volume of consumption here, more, I would have to think, than the volume of legal use. The drug companies have to know where it's going. And how is it getting there? Something just ain't right here.

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