This is the story of Henry Granju, a young man who died at the age of 18 from his addiction to prescription drugs. "That's so sad," I heard myself say as I read the detailed account of Henry's addiction to drugs and untimely death as told by his mother, Katie Allison Granju. Recognize that name? You've probably heard of Granju as the author of "Attachment Parenting: Instinctive Care for Your Baby and Young Child," or seen her posts on Salon, Babble or her own blog, Mamapundit. Granju is a gifted writer whose pain and longing rises up from each post and made me realize just how easy it would be for this tragedy to happen to any family — my family ... my children. This is more than sad. It's tragic.
Prescription drug abuse has become an epidemic in the United States. According to WhiteHouse.gov, "abuse of prescription pain killers now ranks second — only behind marijuana — as the Nation's most prevalent illegal drug problem."
Research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on deaths in the U.S. due to poisoning (from 1999-2004) shows that nearly all poison deaths in the country are attributed to drugs, and most drug poisonings result from the abuse of prescription and illegal drugs. What's more, the number of these deaths increased from 12,186 in 1999 to 20,950 in 2004. That's an increase of 62.5 percent in five years. And the trend is continuing to skyrocket.
A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that teens describe their prescription drug abuse as "responsible," "controlled" or "safe," with the perception that these prescription drugs are safer than street drugs. In fact, data from the Partnership for a Drug Free America show that four out of 10 teens feel that prescription medicines are much safer to use than illegal drugs, even if they are not prescribed by a doctor. This study, The Partnership Attitude Tracking Study (PATS): Teens in grades 7 through 12, found that nearly one in five teens (19 percent or 4.5 million) report abusing prescription medications that were not prescribed to them.
One in five!
That means if you know five teens, it's possible that you know at least one prescription drug user. I don't know about you, but I know a heck of a lot more than five teens. And it breaks my heart to think that any of them could be headed down Henry Granju's path.
As parents, the best thing that we can do to put a stop to this epidemic is to talk to our kids — and to each other. So I'm spreading the word about Henry and hoping that his story's tragic ending will help prevent at least one kid from making the same decisions that he did.