Scientology Drug Education Campaign Sounds Alarm over “Legal” Gateway to Drug Hell
LOS ANGELES, CA — Thursday’s headline news from Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, where 16-year-old Amanda Behrent’s life ended with an overdose of painkillers and alcohol at a “sleepover” party, is illustrative of an alarming trend: the abuse of prescription drugs amongst people of all ages and social brackets.
In a review of recent related stories across America, organizers of the Scientology “Say No To Drugs” campaign point to this incident as but one of a string of many. A week earlier, the Portland Oregonian told of a county sheriff’s deputy who pled guilty to robbing two pharmacies at gunpoint, threatening to shoot people and stealing hundreds of pills to support his addiction to painkillers.
The next day, it was Reuters’ Boston reporter Jason Szep telling of “American kids getting high on prescription drugs.” He cited a study by the University of Michigan and National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) that revealed a 38 percent rise in abuse of the painkiller, OxyContin, among 18-year olds between 2002 and 2005.
“Among the most dangerous experiments are ‘pharming parties’ where children meet after scouring family medicine cabinets and dump in what they find into a bowl,” wrote Szep. “They stir things up, dip in, randomly pluck drugs out and swallow them.”
“Because physicians prescribe them, many people perceive that pharmaceutical drugs are safer than street drugs. This could not be further from the truth,” said Bob Adams, a coordinator of the Church of Scientology International’s “Say No to Drugs, Say Yes to Life” campaign.
Adams, a former NFL offensive end who saw steroids claim the careers and lives of teammates and rivals over the years, has meticulously documented the “invisible drug culture” that has emerged over the last decade.
From the New Hampshire state medical examiner’s finding that prescription narcotics were responsible for killing 96 of the 147 people who died of drug overdoses in the state last year, to a report that autopsies confirmed most of the 174 deaths from drug overdoses in Southwest Virginia in the first nine months of 2005 were from prescription painkillers, it is all too clear to Adams that, “ideas about the ‘relative safety’ of prescription drugs as compared to street drugs are entirely misguided.” As he and “Say No to Drugs, Say Yes to Life” campaign supporters point out, these prescription drugs are increasingly becoming the “legal” gateway to a life of addiction.
The number of teens abusing prescription narcotics has tripled since 1992, and according to NIDA director, Nora Volkow, “Last year, painkillers were the number one drug for people taking drugs for the first time.”
Misconception nonetheless runs deep, say studies which reveal that a full third of American teens believe prescription painkillers are not addictive. “By and large, teenagers at ‘pharming parties’ are clueless as to the side effects of the dangerous mind-altering substances they are taking into their bodies,” said Adams. “A key factor in this problem is pervasive ignorance that affects not only youth, but also educators and parents, some of whom may be setting a poor example by popping pills as a quick-fix ‘solution’ to cope with life’s problems.”
The answer, say the “Say No to Drug” advocates, is education that targets young people as well as those from whom they seek guidance for the hard choices they make in life. Adams thus calls on parents, school authorities and the clergy to take an active role in making the information about the dangers of prescription drugs broadly available to youth in every community.
In the last decade, as part of their “Say No to Drugs, Say Yes to Life” campaign, Scientology churches worldwide have printed and distributed more than 8 million informational brochures laying out the facts about drugs. The educational effort has also included 224,220 drug awareness billboards and posters, 45 million fliers, 89,000 public awareness events, and 10,200 newspaper and television stories promoting drug-free living.
Further information on the campaign is available at www.drugsalvage.org.
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