The drug screening aspect of my practice is a little smaller during the Obama economy because pre-employment screens are significantly decreased in number. Interestingly, we seem to have fewer positive screens because the applicants we see are desperate for work, so they are either not using recreational drugs as much, or they are cleaning themselves up before going to work in one of the few jobs available.
Among the drugs we see, marijuana is always the most frequent. It is common, easy to get, and inexpensive. Some of our supply is homegrown, but much of it comes from Mexico, literally on the backs of illegal aliens who cross the border as mules. Because it is fat soluble, it stays in the system for a minimum of 30 days. A heavy user may be positive for as long as 120 days. This makes it a very inconvenient drug for people to use if they want to enter the job market.
We have a special drug panel that identifies "spice.” It is also known as K2, Yucatan Fire, fake weed, Moon Rocks, Skunk, and probably some other names. Many people refer to this as synthetic marijuana, but it is not marijuana at all. It is marketed as incense or potpourri. Spice can be rolled and smoked, and it is very dangerous. It has been estimated to be 80 times more potent than marijuana. Five states have banned it, including Georgia, but anyone can get it over the internet or in convenience stores in any of the 45 states in which it is still legal. We have only seen two cases of this so far, but that may be due to the fact that we do not test for it often. As this drug of abuse becomes more popular, we will see more of its users in the emergency rooms.
In my last article, I talked a bit about adults swapping prescription drugs, or lending their prescriptions to a friend who might have a similar condition. Teenagers may also raid their parents’ prescription drug supplies. The most tempting targets include narcotics, antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs, and amphetamines or other stimulants. These drugs can also be sold on campus by teams with an entrepreneurial spirit.
Like voting in some states, you do not need to show identification to buy most cough medicines in the drugstore. Many of the over-the-counter cough medicines contain dextromethorphan, a cough suppressant designed to be taken in 15 – 30 mg doses. At higher doses, like 1500 mg, it produces hallucinations. About 100 high school students last year presented to emergency rooms with this overdose, some of them in a coma. This is a legal drug taken illegally, so its use should be monitored carefully.
About 8% of high school kids use Vicodin, and another 5% use OxyContin. About 7% are abusing Adderall. These drugs remain high on the favorites list, if you will pardon the pun. The narcotics may be obtained from the parents, but any of these may be sold on the streets.
If you have noticed changes in behavior in your child, start asking questions. Pay attention or child's friends. Look for changes in interests, study habits, style of dress, etc. Does your child appear unusually sleepy in the daytime? Is there a change in grades at school? Is there a change in mood or ability to get along with classmates or family members? Does your child seem to need a lot of spending money? Have you noticed any items of value disappearing from your home? If you have answered affirmatively to any of these questions, there may be a problem at home.
No one is exempt from being touched by the drug problem in our community. I once did some drug screening in a church group and found surprises. The problem is pervasive, and it will take all of us to clean it up.
If you have a family member about whom you're concerned, call me or come by for a very private conversation. Let's talk about some options for you. A life might depend upon it.