Whether or not it has anything to do with the murder of two teenagers in Little Falls, the case has a noticeable undercurrent: prescription drug use and abuse by teens.
If you’ve been following the stories about the killings of two teens – shot by the owner of a home they apparently tried to burglarize – you’ve seen it in the details.
- On Sunday, Joy Powell interviewed a relative of the victims who said that the 18-year-old girl who was shot had been in drug rehab before and had even stolen pills from her medicine cabinet.
- On Monday, Curt Brown gathered information from teens that there was a drug connection to the murder case.
- On Tuesday, Powell reported that the teen victims might have burglarized another house, and swiped pill bottles among other items from that home.
- This morning, the Morrison County Sheriff's Department confirmed finding six pill bottles from the earlier home burglary in the car the victims had been driving.
It all fits with the reports over the past couple years from drug treatment and law enforcement officials – that prescription drug abuse is the fastest-growing drug problem among young people today. One of the reasons Hazelden expanded its Plymouth
treatment facility for youth and added a new clinic in Chaska is the prevalence of prescription drug abuse. The use of these drugs, experts say, often quickens the path to addiction and accelerates the need for treatment.
“Prescription drug abuse has been a growing problem for the past decade and a half,” said Dr. Joseph Lee, Hazelden’s director of youth services. “Now it’s at epidemic proportions … People would be surprised at the proportion of crimes that are committed, petty and otherwise, in our community, because of drugs.”
Surveys collected by organizations such as the Minnesota Department of Health and the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University in New York are still more focused on alcohol, tobacco and marijuana. But they have picked up on the trend.
From the Columbia center’s latest annual survey of U.S. teens:
- 44 percent knew drug dealers in their schools.
- 24 percent of school dealers peddled prescription drugs, making it the second most common illegal drug for sale in schools behind marijuana.
From the Minnesota Student Survey:
- 8 percent of high school senior boys in 2010 said they took painkillers not prescribed for them to get high.
- 6 percent admitted to taking someone else's ADHD stimulant medications for the same purpose.
Hennepin County and others have tried to remove these addictive substances from teen hands by having prescription pill disposal events. I recall Hennepin Sheriff Rich Stanek’s comment, at the time of a collection event in 2011, about how pill bottles are top targets for thieves.
"They leave the TV sets, the guns and money,” he said, “but they take the prescription meds."
Lee said parents need to take the risk seriously and dispose of painkillers and other meds rather than leaving unfinished pill bottles around.
“Don’t keep them for a rainy day,” he said. “It is ridiculous. So many people do that. ‘I’ll keep those leftover drugs from my wisdom teeth for when I have back problems.’ … Where do people think that stuff goes?”