Partnership for Drug-Free Kids Responds to Youth Rx Abuse with “BREAKING POINTS” Short Film

Documentary Explores Stress and Unhealthy Ways Teens Cope 

 ~ New Research: Stress, Anxiety Play Large Role in Life of Teens, Many Resort to Using Rx Medicine Not Prescribed to Them to Cope With Daily Pressures

NEW YORK, April 26, 2016 – The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, a national nonprofit working to reduce substance abuse among adolescents, today announced the launch of BREAKING POINTS, a new, short documentary film that raises awareness about the level of stress that high school and college students experience and the unhealthy ways that many of them cope. The film explores behavior that is becoming normalized among students – abusing prescription (Rx) medicines not prescribed to them, including Rx stimulants for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). BREAKING POINTS was directed by Tucker Capps, known for his work on A&E’s “Intervention,” and is a part of the Partnership’s Medicine Abuse Project, a national action campaign with the goal of preventing and addressing prescription medicine abuse among teens.

Along with the launch of BREAKING POINTS, the Partnership also released new research today reinforcing themes uncovered in the film – young people are engaging in risky behaviors like abusing substances, including Rx medicines, to cope with stress and anxiety.

BREAKING POINTS includes candid perspectives from high school and college students and nationally recognized experts, challenging the misperceived “safety” and effectiveness of abusing prescription stimulants without a doctor’s prescription. The film serves as a catalyst to inform discussions about what parents and communities can do to support teens who are struggling to manage stress and anxiety.

“Today’s high school students are overscheduled and overstressed, and unfortunately too many of them are turning to Rx stimulants to cope with the stress of their daily lives. So we created this BREAKING POINTS to take a deeper dive into the reasons why teens are stressed and to challenge perceptions about the perceived safety of taking these medications that are not prescribed to them,” said Kristi Rowe, Chief Marketing Officer for the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. “Many of the teens who abuse Rx stimulants are often smart, competitive kids who see taking these pills as the only way to level the academic playing field.”

Along with interviews with high school and college students from across the country talking about their own personal experiences with stress, the film also features interviews with Dr. Nora Volkow, Director of the National Institute of Drug Abuse; Denise Pope, Author, Stanford Senior Lecturer, Co-Founder of Challenge Success; and Alan Schwarz, Pulitzer Prize-Nominated National Correspondent for The New York Times, among others.

“Many teens see stimulants as a solution to handle their increasing workload, using the medicines to stay up late in order to complete hours of homework and to get through lengthy standardized tests,” said Denise Pope. “This film uncovers the truth behind these so-called ‘study drugs’ and will spark important dialogue between parents, educators, and students on how to prevent abuse of stimulants and encourage more positive coping strategies to handle the academic pressures today’s youth are facing.”

“Traveling the country to make this film, I’ve been struck by how the competition to get into college has become so intense, and so insular, that some students really start to lose perspective,” said Tucker Capps. “Too many high schoolers and college kids believe that they’d be at a disadvantage if they don’t use their friends’ prescription stimulants to focus on papers and exams. My hope is that we can point out this trend to parents and educators before it becomes the new norm.”

Stress, Anxiety Plaguing Teens: Many Resort to Rx Medicine Abuse to Cope with Daily Pressures

The film is being released against a backdrop of continued abuse of prescription medicines by teens and young people. The Partnership fielded a series of questions to better understand the relationship between stress, anxiety and substance use among teenagers. The new survey data show:

  • A majority of teens (61 percent) say stress and anxiety have a large impact on their lives, and half of all teens (49 percent) struggle to manage these mental states.
  • One in ten teens (11 percent) says they feel compelled at times to drink alcohol or use drugs to help cope with stress and anxiety.
  • The research also shows that more than one in five teens (22 percent) believe it is okay to abuse a prescription drug, as long as they were not doing so to “get high.”

The Partnership also previously released research that complements the new data and confirms that the abuse of prescription stimulants has become a normalized behavior among current college students. The online study was conducted among young adults and found that they often misuse and abuse prescription stimulants as a way to manage the daily demands of academics, work and social pressures.

The research was released in November 2014 and found that 1 in 5 college students (20 percent) reported abusing prescription stimulants at least once in their lifetime. Older students were also more prone to engage in these behaviors: the data found that among current students, sophomores, juniors, seniors and graduate students are significantly more likely to abuse Rx stimulants than college freshmen.

“Studies show that when stimulant medications used to treat ADHD are taken by people who do not actually have ADHD, they do not improve academic performance, when compared to a placebo, and abusing them can lead to dependence, addiction and to other serious health problems,” said Marcia Lee Taylor, President and CEO of the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. “We also want to make sure that parents of teens with a legitimate prescription for ADHD medication talk with their children about the importance of securing their medicine and never sharing it with friends.”

Local Screenings Provide Communities Opportunity to Discuss Solutions for Teen Stress and Anxiety

BREAKING POINTS will roll out through a series of special local screenings in towns and communities across the country. A dedicated website for BREAKING POINTS is available at www.drugfree.org/breakingpoints/ and will provide access to the film for those who want to arrange screenings in their towns or for schools and community organizations who want to plan an event and panel discussion around the film. The local screenings provide key opportunities for parents, educators and community leaders to explore what steps they can take to help young people manage stress better and, in turn, help curb teen Rx medicine abuse.

The website also features extended interviews with experts from the movie; shareable infographics with statistics on teen Rx medicine abuse, stress and anxiety; and downloadable action sheets with tips and advice for parents.

To learn more about the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids please visit, drugfree.org.

Survey Methodology:

The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids fielded a series of questions through ORC’s Online CARAVAN Youth Omnibus to explore the relationship between stress, anxiety and substance use among teenagers. The survey had a sample size of 500 teens, between the ages of 13-17 years old and the questions were fielded the week of February 9-16, 2016.

CREATIVE CREDITS FOR “BREAKING POINTS:

PRODUCER & DIRECTOR: TUCKER CAPPS

EXECUTIVE PRODUCERS: TUCKER CAPPS, KRISTI ROWE

CO-PRODUCER: NATALIE ANCONA

WRITER: TUCKER CAPPS

DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY: TUCKER CAPPS

CAMERA: TUCKER CAPPS AND NATALIE ANCONA

EDITORS: TUCKER CAPPS, UMA SANASARYAN, AND ALEX O’FLINN

SCORE: JOHN BALCOM AND JONATHAN ZALBEN; FIRST FRAME MUSIC

SOUND: MICHAEL HUANG; FILM NOISE

COLOR: GERRY CURTIS; FOREST LAKE FILMS

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    User Picture

    David Loffert

    May 21, 2016 at 11:58 PM

    Yes, Rx addiction and abuse is still very prevalent. I understand this disease as a result of experiencing it.

    Introduction, My Story

    David Todd Loffert, B.S., M.H.S., Ph.D., C.P.S.S.

    After completing 4 years at the University of Northern Colorado for my Bachelor of Science, 1 year at Johns Hopkins University for my Masters in Health Science, and 2 years into my Ph.D. in respiratory medicine at the Medical College of Virginia/Virginia Commonwealth University, I thought I had complete control of my life. Specifically, my career in aerosol respiratory medicine. I had published my first paper in a respectable peer reviewed medical journal (Chest) when I was 27. Several months after that, I presented the paper at a medical conference in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany. It was one of numerous trips I would take nationally and internationally to present my work.

    By the time I was in my second year of my Ph.D. I had published/presented 54 medical papers, published 6 peer reviewed medical papers, was contributing author on one book, owned and operated my own consulting company in respiratory medicine, developed a patent for respiratory devices, and was progressing successfully in my Ph.D. I was 31 years old and I was proud of my accomplishments and my continuing success in respiratory medicine. But, that was all about to change. Addiction would enter my life and take away from me my possessions, my profession, my loved ones, and my sanity.

    My pathway to addiction started when I made an appointment at the Medical College of Virginia/Virginia Commonwealth University to see Dr. Cary Suter, M.D. for migraine headaches. I put great trust in him due to the fact that he was the medical schools doctor and was responsible for taking care of the students enrolled in the medical school programs. In a timeframe of 8 months I was prescribed 6,647 controlled substance pills. I had pills to help me stay awake and study, pills for helping me sleep, pills for anxiety, and pills for pain. I knew about addiction but I thought I was too intelligent to become addicted. Anyway, these pills were provided to me by the school’s doctor who said he had taken pills when he was in medical school to help him succeed. My ignorance would cause me to lose almost a decade of my life and would bring me close to death many times as a result of my severe drug addiction.

    Although Dr. Suter lost his medical license for over prescribing controlled substances and not monitoring that prescribing, it was too late for me. I had to drop out of my Ph.D. program due to my addiction. Dr. Suter lost his license 3 months after I dropped out of the program. At this point in my life, I had to confront and accept some very disturbing facts: I no longer was pursuing the goal I had been following for the past 15 years, I was severely addicted to prescription drugs, the doctor who had been prescribing me the drugs had his medical license revoked, and the main focus of my life was to obtain drugs. I was, in essence, trapped in the severity of my addiction. For the first time I had lost complete control over my life.

    My first of numerous addiction related detrimental events came when I was presenting a medical paper at a respiratory conference in Atlanta, Georgia. Before my lecture I forged a prescription on my computer and proceeded to the pharmacy to have it filled. Since the prescription was for Demerol, the pharmacy called the doctor and verified the prescription was forged. The police were waiting for me (at the conference lecture hall) to finish my lecture and when I did they handcuffed and arrested me. I was taken out in front of all my colleagues and conference members and taken to jail. Needless to say I was immediately fired from my job as a senior aerosol scientist for a prominent company established in the United States.

    For many years I was doctor shopping. I would acquire my drugs in many ways: the internet, hospital emergency rooms, forged prescriptions, clinics, private doctors, and in other countries. I would stay employed by various companies because of my experience in respiratory medicine. But, I would ultimately get fired when my drug addiction interfered with the quality of my work. Eventually, word of my addiction became known to my colleagues and the respiratory medicine industry. From that point on, I was not called upon to lecture, to consult, or in any way work in the respiratory medicine industry. I was, for all intents and purposes, “blackballed” from my profession.

    Shunned from my profession, disenchanted from my family and friends, and homeless, I fell into a deep depression. It was at this time that I wrote a suicide note and attempted to commit suicide. Over the next 9 years I would attempt suicide 1 more time, have 35 toxic overdoses, and 45 seizures. All of which brought me close to death each time.

    During the 9 years of my addiction, I would periodically give the rehabilitations a try. Nine times I made a serious effort to get sober. But, every time I would relapse within weeks of being discharged. After 9 years of being an addict, I completely surrendered to my disease and came to the understanding that my addiction was not going to be successfully addressed in weeks or even in a couple months of treatment. I realized that my recovery would require at least a year in a long term residential program where I could work on my addiction issues every day with no distractions. I found that in a year-long cognitive/behavioral rehabilitation program. This program not only worked on my addiction issues but also worked on my cognitive/behavioral issues that caused me to seek out the drugs.

    Currently, my life is finally in a direction I can be proud of. I graduated from a year-long in-patient residential cognitive/behavioral rehabilitation facility. My sobriety restored my clarity of thought and determination. Two attributes which were essential for completing my autobiography, From Hopkins To Homeless: My True Story Of Prescription Drug Addiction. I just recently made the book available to purchase (see website below). I believe I can inspire and educate others about addiction and recovery with my autobiography.

    My future is completely open with possibilities. I do know that I am very thrilled and inspired living life as a sober individual. And, for the first the first time in over 9 years I have a sense of self-confidence and respect for myself. This confidence reminds me that I can accomplish anything I put my mind to. For this reason, I enrolled and completed my doctorate in public health education and have also completed training to become a certified peer support specialist.

    It has been a long, arduous, and self-revealing journey through my 9 years of addiction to recovery. Unfortunately, along the way I became deceitful, dishonest, unreliable, and untrustworthy. On the other hand, I can proclaim that through my suffering and adversity came great rewards and prosperity. Today, I continue to advocate for those affected by the diseases of addiction and mental health. It is a passion and a pathway that I will pursue for the rest of my life.

    Please visit http://www.fromhopkinstohomeless.com for further information about my story.

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