Guest Column: Ignored in America: Prescription drug abuse

There is a new and increasingly dangerous threat facing America, a threat that is getting altogether too little attention: crimes associated with prescription drug abuse.

Young people are selling or giving prescription drugs to their friends as a cheap high. Young people are often abusing these drugs under the dangerously mistaken belief that because they came from a reputable manufacturer, or were originally prescribed by a doctor, they are safe to abuse.

Rapists are exploiting the effects of these drugs to make it easier to commit their terrible crimes. Law enforcement increasingly fears they are drugging rape victims in hopes it will make the crime less often reported and/or diminish the victim’s ability to help the prosecution build a winnable case.

Increasingly often, people are mixing these drugs with alcohol, and then going out on America’s roads, thereby endangering untold thousands of our citizens by driving impaired.

When otherwise safe, legal drugs are used by other than those for whom they are prescribed, when sold or taken by people to get high, when used by rapists to aid in the commission of their vile crimes, or when abused by a person who then drives impaired, crimes are committed!

America’s law enforcement community is trying to sound the alarm on this dangerous threat.

Prescription medicines are prevalent in our communities, and they are often converted into the illegal drug market.

Abuse of prescription sleep medications is on the rise. The United States Drug Enforcement Agency is concerned that prescription sleep medicines are quickly replacing GHB, Rohypnol and ketamine as the new date-rape drug.

They are also becoming an increasingly popular teen party drug. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports the number of teens misusing sedatives has nearly doubled over the last decade; a survey revealed that one out of 14 high school seniors admitted to taking sedatives (without a prescription).

Those who take these illegal drugs, mix in alcohol, and then drive impaired, are a danger to the entire community. About three out of 10 Americans will be involved in an impaired driver-related crash. Drugged drivers kill. And yet, many states do not test for prescription drugs when processing those arrested for driving under the influence.

When abused, otherwise safe and effective prescription medicines can be as dangerous as crack cocaine. Abusing prescription drugs can lead to terrible suffering, including memory loss, brain damage, rape and even death.

Law enforcement officers understand firsthand the needless pain and suffering caused by prescription drug abuse. Doctors, media and the public must come to realize that when people abuse prescription medicines, they are committing a serious crime.

Sadly, the courts, the media and the public often believe prescription drug abuse is not really all that serious. After all, it’s just a medicine or just a sleeping pill. Don’t be fooled.

Drug dealers are not just common criminals; they are often your child’s classmates passing out or selling their parents’ prescriptions. When dealers are caught selling these drugs, it must be considered criminal behavior—the same as dealing meth amphetamine or crack.

Law enforcement believes public education and awareness—combined with the support of the medical community, parents and the entire criminal justice system—is the only way we can hope to prevent the needless loss of life and harm caused by the growing criminal misuse of these prescription medicines. The focus needs to be on the criminal actions of those who put our society in danger, not on the medicine they are abusing.

Parents need to be watchful for the signs of drug abuse in their children, and they should guard their prescription medicines. All Americans need to stand with law enforcement and heed this wake-up call.

The Law Enforcement Alliance of America, Inc. (LEAA) is a national, not-for-profit, IRS-recognized 501(c)(4) organization composed of law enforcement, crime victims and concerned Americans working together to improve the criminal justice system. The information contained herein is part of LEAA’s public education efforts. For more information, visit

From the Jan. 31-Feb. 6, 2007, issue

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