American Morning

Tune in at 6am Eastern for all the news you need to start your day.
April 6th, 2010
09:54 AM ET

Teens talk of prescription drug abuse

Editor's Note: Addiction to painkillers is fueling criminal behavior, from fraudulent prescriptions to murder. On Wednesday's American Morning, see how authorities are trying to stop people who aren't able to stop themselves.

(CNN) – Prescription drug abuse has grabbed headlines with the high-profile deaths of celebrities like Corey Haim, Heath Ledger, Anna Nicole Smith, and Michael Jackson. But the epidemic is not limited to Hollywood.

In the second part of the special series "Addicted," our Kiran Chetry talks candidly with three young people about how drug abuse became a way of life for them.

Filed under: Addicted...
soundoff (28 Responses)
  1. Hostetler

    Do you regret anything?

    April 7, 2010 at 5:27 pm |
  2. saltthrower

    Humans have been abusing drugs since they were discovered. The addiction is all to serious. Today's youth as well as the adults need oppurtunities to remedy these bad decisions. Now,it is up to us to give them another chance. Or do we only care about doing the right thing for foreiners.

    April 7, 2010 at 10:11 am |
  3. Randy Latham

    CNN'S selective reporting process on prescription abuse has hurt the individuals that do not abuse the medication and makes it harder for those people to obtain the drugs that help people live a fairly normal life. CNN knows that there is always 2 sides to a story but choose to be selective in reporting only the ugly side of it.
    Come on CNN, lets hear from the people who are in pain and do not abuse their medication and how your story will make it difficult for them in the future

    April 7, 2010 at 10:01 am |
  4. Shawn Henning

    I get that the abuse of prescription meds is a huge problem. I have two teenagers and am very aware of the recreational uses of these drugs. I also realize that many of them "shop" in parent's med closets. For that reason I keep all prescription meds locked in a safe.

    This is an extremely frustrating situation for me because I am in chronic pain and require pain meds to function at any level. Recreational drug abuse makes it so hard for people like me who have a legitimate need to get some relief from suffering.

    I have both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis as well as a long list of other autoimmune conditions that cause unimaginable pain. I need a combination of pain control methods from acupuncture to meditation to modern chronic pain management techniques, which include new long term pain meds (lyrica, tramadol) as well as traditional pain drugs. Without access to adequate pain medication I would have zero quality of life and would be completely bedridden.

    Yes, patients like me can become physically dependent upon some of these medications. Unlike the recreational user, we experience some level of pain reduction not euphoria from these drugs. If our medication needs to be changed or stopped the doctor just gradually reduces the dose. There are many other medications that shouldn't or can't be stopped abruptly without adverse effects such as prednisone. If a patient suddenly stops taking prednisone they may develop adrenal gland failure.

    Research has proven that patients given adequate pain treatment after surgery recover faster and ultimately need less pain medication. Pain is like a tiger in a cage. It is much easier to keep the tiger in the cage (pain under control) than it is to try and get the tiger back into the cage (pain raging out of control) after it escapes. With doctors being so afraid of the DEA and thrill seekers abusing the system chronic pain patients often suffer needlessly.

    I'd like to see CNN put together a special piece that explores the world of chronic pain patients and how access to the limited resources they have for relief are often cruelly restricted because of sensational celebrity deaths and recreational addict abuse.

    April 7, 2010 at 9:44 am |
  5. Scott

    The problem with prescription drug abuse is that we've gotten to the point where the medical establishment has decided it's better to have people feel absolutly zero discomfort, even though to achieve that level there is a massive risk of addiction. The drugs like Ibuprofen etc... would have been seen as miracle drugs decades ago yet what happens when somebody breaks a pinky? They aren't given a prescription dose of a drug like Motrin, they are immediately prescribed a drug like Percocet or vicadin. Doctors need to start with a drug like Motrin, then if the patient fights them immediately you know that they are an addict. If the patient comes back a day or two later and says "you know, I can't really sleep and my finger is throbbing" give them a 2 day prescription for percocet, not a 30 day prescription with 2 refills. That is a guarentee for addiction.

    April 7, 2010 at 9:43 am |
  6. Kris

    "We will bring you any developments"
    This is the point in time where these knuckleheaded youngsters need that extra push in order to come to realization and release them of a weak mentality, and help them to progress.

    It's quite pathetic in my opinion to hear that you have some addicts parading about, doing nothing to assist them. If their judgement and independance is clouded by addiction, wake up and get them the leverage they need.

    April 7, 2010 at 9:35 am |
  7. Randall Lanier

    I think it is a travesty that your news coverage treated this so ligthly. Obviously treading lightly over the real problem, large pharmecutical companies and their drug dealers, doctors. I have four horrible stories to tell within my own family and friends caused by oxycontin.
    This drug was supposedly made to relieve pain for terminally ill cancer patients. Doctors are passing it out like candy. It changes the thought processes of all the users, creating anger, addition, illusions and aggression. Kids buy it on the street, and when it is not available they turn to heroin. Lets go the heart of the matter and leave it as still "OK" behind. It is not OK and should be banned.
    As you stated, there are more prescription drug deaths than from illegal drug deaths and I am positive there are many more deaths that were created by prescription drugs but covered over. Please readdress the oxycontin issue in specific. I am sure you will have no problem uncovering many horror stories caused by this highly addictive drug!!!!

    April 7, 2010 at 9:25 am |
  8. Patricia Franklin

    I am absolutely livid because of the lack of balance in your reporting. You failed to talk to Board Certified Pain Management Specialist. Not all will agree but get a balanced report. Your scare tactics only serve to hurt those who really need the drug. My opinion is a doctor that knows his patient and fails to address the pain level of that patient is negligent.

    Yes, we need to control narcotics; yes we need to try and protect teens and prevent illegal use. Are we to ignore those in need of these drugs? I for one have been on oxycodone for 11 years; I am not addicted. This drug allows me to function day to day in conjunction with other alternatives. These alternatives allow the minimization of the amount of oxycodone needed daily. If pain is allowed to really get out of control, more oxycodone will not help. The person taking this medication must check out his/her doctor, try alternatives first and work in conjunction with the doctor. The patient must follow doctor's directions explicitly; no playing amateur doctor. Addiction can be avoided while taking powerful drugs. Failure to take as directed by my pain management doctor will get me dropped as a patient. Note: According to your report I should be addicted by now and/or need more drugs. I won't take more. It's called patient responsiblity and doctor coordination.


    April 7, 2010 at 9:25 am |
  9. Bruce Scott

    Aren't people smart enough to see what has to be done? Addiction is not the problem but how we are handling it. You wouldn't have this problem if it weren't for the insane drug war. The drug war's "all or nothing" attitude is the problem. If opium tea/gum were allowed to be purchased in a special store, like a liquor or package store you would have the problem you face to day. Drug use is part of our human nature. Maybe not yours but to millions.
    I remember one could by aspirin with very little codeine over the counter years ago when I was kid. It was effective and we didn't have this insane drug war.
    Those in need of treatment can be functional if we were to maintain their addiction till treatment.
    We cannot even find simple aspirin and codeine tablets over the counter anymore so people go to doctors and get much stronger medications.
    Its a fact of life. People re going to use opiates. It's been done for thousands of years. This insane drug war tries to totally eliminate opiates and you create far mote problems than the drug themselves.
    You created this monster and expect people to comply. You cannot understand but it is so obvious.
    And as for prescription deaths, narcotics re not the min problem. It is your non-narcotic meds like blood pressure, heart medications and other biological med that cause far more deaths than someone using narcotic.
    The US Gov't twists and manipulates facts and figures to confuse the public and make the problem far worse than it has to be.
    You made your beds, now sleep in it. Look at the collateral damage over the years from this insane drug war.

    April 7, 2010 at 9:14 am |
  10. Chris

    Kyle explained many aspects of the problem very well. My biggest issue is the pharmaceutical companies are profiting hugely, at mostly taxpayer expense, therefore the incentive to keep America addicted is prominent. In my experience as a probation officer working with substance abusers, many of the pills on the street are paid for through Social security or disability, and therefore funded by taxpayers.
    I have also had experience with chronic lower back pain, as many people have. However there are many other options to minimize pain, such as exercise, PT, acupuncture, homeopathic remedies. Unfortunately, many are unwilling to do the work necessary for good health, such as eating well, exercise, and preventative treatment.

    April 7, 2010 at 9:02 am |
  11. Cathy

    I had a backache 7 years ago. I almost died last year because my doctor over medicated me for 5 years. I was given most of the drugs you mentioned all at once! I begged to stop the pills. They said I would have a heart attack If I stopped! I now have some brain damage. I am off pills now but no one takes responsibility for it. Some doctors are out of control.

    April 7, 2010 at 9:02 am |
  12. Pauly


    I, like many other chronic pain patients, have undergone many procedures & surgeries to avoid taking pain medications. After 12 years, I'm still treated like an abuser/addict. I have also taken every other alternative for pain, ie: nsaids, anti-depressants, anti-seizures, etc.

    I have even had 2 implants, a spinal cord stimilator & a morphine infusion pump. Not to mention nerve blocks, epidurals & surgeries. What began as a back issue has developed into a more serious condition. Depending on which hospital, my recent dx's have been RSD, (Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy), chronic pain syndrome w/ myalgias & arthralgias or progressive polyneuropathy / w/ allodynia & parasthesias.

    Any one of them, which have been supported by nerve biopsies, EMG's, Q-Sarts, etc, cause serious chronic pain. Why then is my pain still being questioned by doctors, pharmacists, etc? None of my other health conditions or the medications I take to treat them are ever called into question. I'm not the only one who suffers due to the stigma associated w/ opioid pain medications. It makes the suffering that much harder.

    I'm concerned about prescription drug abuse, especially since I have 7 grandchildren. However, I and most cpp's have nothing to do w/ it. We are not addicts & do NOT divert what are our lifelines. We are the ones who suffer most from the abuse & war on drugs however.

    April 7, 2010 at 8:48 am |
  13. Christy Alkire

    When I was a teenager I was very depressed. My Grandmother used to take real strong sleeping pills. I had decided to end my life and all I had to do is go into my Granma's room and get her pills. She had jutst refilled her prescription and I ended up taking about 28 pills. I almost died. Teens have access to strong medication that Doctors are over perscribing. I am the person that sent in another comment about Acupuncture.

    April 7, 2010 at 8:39 am |
  14. Dad61

    I am a cpp as well, and those that are absolutely feel the euphoria, that's how they work, they make you not care that you are in pain, period, they may dull it slightly. Everyday for over 12 years I took those opiates, doses that would put the novice to sleep, permanently. I realized eventually that I was sick and tired of feeling sick and tired and that the pills where a crutch, so I quit taking them. I educated myself as to what the effects would be, then just quit. I then learned to put the pain in the back of my mind instead of letting it be the first and foremost thing on my mind. Am I still in pain? Yes, very much so, and I can't even imagine my life without it any longer, it's like that friend that never shuts up or goes away, eventually you just accept it and deal with it. The other option is to continue being a slave to your crutch of narcotics and "Oh woe is me"(s). Being a cpp has made me realize a number of things in life, positive things, I was bed ridden the first 18 months and when you can not go out, the only direction left was inwardly. Take that long hard look at yourselves, don't be afraid of your faults, confront them and grow from them, take that first step, you won't be sorry.

    April 7, 2010 at 8:32 am |
  15. FC


    I agree with you because, as the name applies, chronic pain patients are always in pain and use medications to relieve some of that pain. But people who aren't CPP's get the same medications and they would develop an addiction which unfortunately categorize people like Tom and other CPP's as abusers and then they get thrown under the bus along with people who rightfully deserve to be criticized as a "pill popper."

    Educating people about how pain medications can cause more harm than good would be a good start. In the end though, it's up to the people themselves to decide how they want to go about taking medications.

    April 7, 2010 at 8:25 am |
  16. Luis

    Being a physician I can say that the problem has multiple origins. Some physicians and patients have unrealistic expectations of these drugs. Medication sometimes can achieve total symptom control, but sometimes it is not possible. Another part of the problem is the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). All physcians that prescribe controlled substances have a DEA number. Unfortunately, the DEA does not routinely track prescriptions. It tracks only when a pharmacist has concerns. It is very easy to find out the DEA number of an MD and call in a prescription impersonating him. As you can call different pharmacies, you can get a big supply of drugs.

    April 7, 2010 at 8:13 am |
  17. Christy Alkire

    My name is Christy I am a 58 year old disabled woman. I have several painful conditions going on in my back, for a number of years now. The Workers Comp Doctors just kept giving me pills which most of were addicting. I found Acupuncture and am grateful I did. I don't take any more addictive pain killers and have not for several years. I have a gentle Chiropractor and my Acupuncture Physician has me on a very strong formula of Chinese herbs. These herbs take care of everything from pain to hormone replacement. I am on Medicare and have to pay out of pocket for Acupuncture. It would sure help me if Medicare would pay for my Acpuncture since I am living on below poverty level income. I feel it would be cheaper in the long run for them to pay even part of my Acpuncture. Thank you for letting my voice my opinion. Christy

    April 7, 2010 at 8:13 am |
  18. Pauly


    Suboxone is an opiate!!!

    April 7, 2010 at 8:11 am |
  19. Kyle

    Why does everyone act so surprised by the Drug problem in this Country. ??? Why is everyone so surprised about the Prescription Drug Problem.. ?? The issue has been around for years, and has EXPLODED into epidemic proportions.... It effects all corners of our Society.. The Addiction issue is the individual issue. People CHOOSE to abuse the drugs that are prescribed to them. No one forces them to abuse their prescriptions. The other issue to this is the EASY access. Unlike PRIVATE HEALTH insurance, on Public Assistance Health Care ( Medicaid, Medicare, Other State programs ) there is NO real oversight to how many Doctors and or Prescriptions and individual can or should have. It is incredibly EASY for someone to "Doctor Shop" until he or she gets the prescriptions that they want. ( and probably don't have to pay for ). CNN reports that over 100 million prescriptions were wrote for pain meds. Who do you think is picking up the tab on most of that . ?? I have been involved in Social Services for almost 20 years. I have seen the EXTREME cost of Substance abuse first hand. From broken homes and broken bodies to the INCREDIBLE monetary cost that our Society has to pay for. The Monetary costs to Social services directly and indirectly related to drug abuse is ENORMOUS !!! ( I could go on and on and give example after example on this particular point alone ) .. The Drug Companies are getting very rich from prescription pain meds. Politicians pass laws and regulations that stifle Doctors from knowing and or asking about their patients abuse issues. Politicians and administrators, pass laws and regulations that forbid Social Service employees from being "whistle blowers" on the ridiculous amount of money that is spent and or given to people with "addiction" issues. ( Not to mention, I'm sure some of these Politician's personal stock portfolios are filled with Drug maker stock ) ... Nothing will change until the individual person is held accountable for his or her actions. Nothing will change until the Drug Companies produce less addictive drugs. And finally, the Politicians stop lining their own pockets and do what is right for society as a whole.

    April 7, 2010 at 8:08 am |
  20. Paul Krokus Jr.

    I am a 34 year old male who used to be a RN. I was in the Navy and was a victim of dental malpractice which led to a severe bone infection of my jaw. They failed to complete a root canal for a year and a half. In the end I had 6 strains of Stapholococcus Bacteria and a Fungus in the left side of my jaw which led to removal of between 3 and 4 inches of my jaw bone to be replaced with a titanium bar that stretches from my chin to my ear. That bar was placed improperly and was allowed to grate against the live, nerve innervated bone of my chin, for over a year before I was able to get a reconstruction of my jaw done at Ruby Memorial Hospital in Morgantown, WV. If it wasn't for them I'd still be in more severe pain than I am presently. Because of my age and being so young I can't find a doctor willing to treat me with the pain medications that I need. To reconstruct the defect in my jaw it required a moderate amount of bone to be removed from the left side of my pelvis to be ground up and mixed with a glue used to form a synthetic jaw bone with a cadaver graft as well. The point is, I haven't been able to walk without limping or the use of a cane since the reconstriction surgery in 2005 and literally can feel my pulse rate in my pelvis at the hight of my pain daily. I in no way bear ill will against the doctors ant Ruby Memorial, but do have issues with the Navy for their failure to step up properly and medically disable me for the injuries they have inflicted on me.

    April 7, 2010 at 8:08 am |
  21. michael jones

    ive been an addict for over half my life and im now in recovery im taking a drug called suboxone to help me in my recovery and it is a great medication for opiate dependant people

    April 7, 2010 at 8:08 am |
  22. Pauly


    Those who are prescribed opioids long term, chronic pain patients, (cpp's), usually don't become addicted. Studies show that only 1-3% of cpp's become addicted. The reason is simple, cpp's don't experience the euphoria that drives addiction.

    April 7, 2010 at 8:06 am |
  23. Dad61

    How can anyone possibly be surprised at prescription drug "addiction"?
    Anyone that watches the propaganda machine that is the MSM, gets bombarded with prescription drug adverts, the magic cure for everything is some pill. I've got a cure for all the ails of this country, try pulling your heads from your dark nether regions. Wake up and smell the imported coffee. Stop the "it's not your fault" pervade and start taking responsibility for ones actions. Get real with yourselves and quit being so weak.

    April 7, 2010 at 8:02 am |
  24. FC

    I have to disagree with you Doug, respectfully of course. That statement would then say that all cigarette smokers are addicted because they want to be and that nicotine plays no role whatsoever in aiding that addiction.

    These pain killers are narcotics and opioid based drugs which are highly addictive. Some people are prescribed these pain killers for long periods of time where addiction can develop real easily and once a patient is addicted they will do anything to get a prescription. I have been working in a pharmacy for four years and have seen and heard all sorts of people coming in saying they are in pain and have a prescription for pain killers. People would come in with a bloody gauze in their mouth coming from a dentist with a prescription for strong pain killers and then someone else would come in with a soft air cast and crutches for pain killers. As doctors claim it is hard to tell if someone is in pain unless they have a broken bone or cancer and it is just as difficult for a pharmacist to differentiate someone who is in actual pain and someone looking for a fix at times but experience can help differ between the two. At the end of the day doctors and pharmacists are looking to help people and it is difficult at times to pick out are persona actually in pain and an addict as I have witnessed with my own eyes.

    The idea for having a national database for finding out what medications a patient is taking or has taken is an excellent idea and I am in awe as to why it hasn't been implemented yet.

    April 7, 2010 at 7:57 am |
  25. tom mccrory

    I am a53 year old cronic pain for a lower back problem, that i have been dealing with for 33 years, with slim hopes of an operation doing any good at all to help with the pain that i have for all of these years. i know that after taking pain meds for that long i am an addict, i do not like it, but i do not have a option as to other pain relife. with what is going now it is hard for legit people to get our pain meds and not feel like a criminal or that you are a bad person.

    April 7, 2010 at 7:54 am |
  26. Don

    Why shouldn't we expect prescription drug addiction? How many prescription drug ads are on television day after day? Why are the drug companies advertising to people who cannot directly buy them without a prescription? I understand that only the United States and New Zealand allow this kind of advertising to the public.

    April 7, 2010 at 7:43 am |
  27. Doug

    They are addicted cause they want to be.,,,I do not believe in addictions. You are what you want to be.

    April 6, 2010 at 11:56 pm |
  28. Liz Brown

    Thanks for sharing this addiction story with the 3 teenagers (Melissa, Sarah and Adam). Because they all started abusing prescription drugs so young and stole from their parent's medicine chest, it just shows how important it is to educate everyone on the dangers. Journey Healing Centers is trying to help people understand the warning signs, health dangers and sobriety solutions before it's too late. If you have any questions, don't hesitate to call their free 24 hour addiction hotline: 1-866-744-5119

    April 6, 2010 at 6:38 pm |