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Recommendations To Tackle Prescription Drug Abuse Among Student Athletes In New Jersey

Noting a growing problem among scholastic athletes, the Medical Advisory Committee of New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) has put forward various proposals to tackle the issue of prescription drug abuse. Steve Timko, the executive director of the association, said that they were being proactive in stemming a crisis that was ruining the lives of several young people.

Some of the regulations are meant to encourage the practice of exercising extreme caution among physicians when prescribing opioid drugs to scholastic athletes and also cultivating a culture among doctors of using non-narcotic treatment medication. The Medical Advisory Committee emphasizes that there is need to ensure that such drugs are administered safely. Other best practices proposed include educating the student athletes as well as their parents about the possibility of addiction from such medication. The physicians treating the athletes should also make it a priority to inform the school nurse and the student's trainer about opioids prescription.

Data released by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence show that about 12% of male and 8% of female student athletes in the past year alone have been given prescriptions of very addictive opioid type of narcotics. Other studies on the other hand indicate that nearly 83% of adolescent children access narcotic prescriptions without the supervision of a responsible adult. This is according to data held by NJSIAA. The association has identified some of the commonly abused prescription drugs to include OxyContin, Vicodin and Percocet.

The protocols recommended by the NJSIAA's Medical Advisory Committee will need the support of different stakeholders in order to properly function. The committee has therefore decided to bring in other partners such as pharmacists, medical societies, education associations, trainers and law enforcement to help it realize its objectives. Dr. John Kripsak, the committee's chair, said that most research findings have shown that nearly 80 percent of those who are addicted to heroin began by abusing narcotic class painkillers. He asserted that it was therefore very necessary to contain the problem of drug abuse right from the beginning. The alarming statistics prove that they need to act now and fast.

These are the protocols proposed by the Medical Advisory Committee of the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association in relation to student athletes and abuse of opioids:

*Utmost caution must be exercised by physicians whenever they want to give opioid prescriptions to scholastic athletes

*Non-narcotic prescription alternatives such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, acetaminophen, salicylates and alternative methods of treatment like cryotherapy should be considered as a priority option.

*Opioids should only be prescribed for injuries that cause severe pain and only for a single week at any given time without automatic refills.

*Every such prescription must have detailed information on mode of usage and specific cautions on abuse and risks of addiction.

*No such prescriptions should be given directly to scholastic athletes, and they should also never be administered without the supervision of a responsible adult.

*The school nurse and/or the athletic trainer should be made aware of all opioid prescriptions by the treating physician and/or parents/guardians.

*It is necessary for treating physicians to have boundaries when giving opioid prescriptions to students.

*Each school district is required to develop very specific and detailed policy dedicated to addressing this issue.

*Drug monitoring programs should be implemented by school districts and a lot of emphasis should be made on identifying students who project signs and symptoms of opioid abuse.

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