Teen Prescription Drug Use and Abuse: Sharing Stories to Raise Awareness

September 12, 2013

I was honored to be part of an emotional, personal and powerful storytelling event for The Medicine Abuse Project during the evening of September 10th with ten other brave woman, and amazing writers:

The Medicine Abuse Project helps to bring awareness to the epidemic of prescription drug use in teens. Here are links for the videos: part onepart two, and part three. (The story I read follows below, or you can watch or listen to me during in part one). Please listen. Please talk with your children.

To learn more about The Medicine Abuse Project, visit drugfree.org/medicineabuseproject and follow the conversation online at #endmedicineabuse. The Medicine Abuse Project aims to prevent half a million teens from abusing medicine by the year 2017. I encourage you to take The Pledge (It takes just a few seconds!) and have frequent conversations with your kids about the real dangers of prescription drug use. The Partnership has created kits and provided resources to help you safeguard your kids.

The Medicine Abuse Project states that one in four teens, “reports having misused or abused a prescription drug at least once in their lifetime.” This is a 33 percent increase since 2008. But let me go back. Decades in time, when the abuse of prescription drugs wasn’t on the “radar.”

The Legacy of My Johnny

His name was John, however I anointed him Johnny as soon as I could say it. He was my rosy-cheeked, white-haired, freckled-faced, green-eyed, butt-chinned brother. Shy, but all boy. Busy. I adored him, and we were always together—especially during our pre-elementary years. We leisurely and enthusiastically explored our small world as young children with two other brothers, and sometimes allowed the neighborhood kids into our inner sanctum. I thought My Johnny was special, perfect, an angel. I was his protectress.

We grew up, and friendships, school and activities distanced us. But at the heart of it we were still brother and sister, tethered together since his arrival into my world. Somehow, somewhere during this distancing and his journey into adolescence my picture-perfect brother began his decent into hell.

I became aware of it when away attending college, a call for help. His threat of suicide. John didn’t sound like My Johnny, inasmuch someone I didn’t recognize. His words tumbled forth—blurry, fast, quiet, and then he’d break into tears and his speech would become unintelligible. I tried to be there as much as I could, hours away with no transportation.

I called in reinforcements—our parents. This was to become his pattern, and our nightmare. My feelings about him became mired in the opaque sticky mud of anger and bordered on hate.

My Johnny was often and heavily under the influences of a combination of prescription uppers and downers, chasing one with the other. I had no idea where he got the pills; no one in my family had those prescriptions. I had no idea of how much he consumed or what dictated his ever-changing “special” cocktail.

He moved away from us, fell in love, married, and created and ran a successful business. For a while. Perhaps these years were his last valiant effort to escape the drugs’ seductive power over him. He divorced, lost his business and became so addicted that he made trips to Mexico to get his hands on more. His vacations were in Mexico because he could attain the prescriptions drug of choice easily; he openly shared this tidbit of information. We felt helpless as my brother descended further and further into his hell.

Was his addiction to mask some pain? Shame? Horror? Whatever it was, the cause was unfathomable and devoid of light. Johnny wasn’t talking.

With the help of a counselor who focused on substance abuse, I moved through the stages of healthy forgiveness. Johnny’s and my relationship moved into, a good place, well, as good of one that can be had when one person in the relationship is continually under the influence of drugs. I was told my brother would die; his body was already presenting the sure and irreversible signs. His death was just a matter of time, and the counselor made a prediction of when…

Time continued to march forward. My pulse flew every time the phone rang. And one day I did receive that call I dreaded. John died, taking my My Johnny with him.

My kiddos are all tweens and teens now—one child with ADHD who takes a prescribed psychostimulant, a Class C drug, a controlled substance medication—and three who were adopted, kids at notably higher risk for abusing substances due to the inherent issues in adoption. The dangers are there. I’m fully aware of the risks, and why. We talk openly and frequently about drugs and drug abuse. And we talk about Uncle John, My Johnny, and how his addictions and death—his legacy—impacted him and those he loved, forever.

** This post is sponsored by The Partnership at Drugfree.org as part of a blog tour with listentoyourmothershow.com in an effort to #EndMedicineAbuse.**

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Lori Lavender Luz September 13, 2013 at 9:14 pm

Thank you for sharing your love for Your Johnny with us. I can tell how loved he was, and I’m sorry for your loss.

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Judy September 15, 2013 at 11:17 pm

Thank you, Lori.

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