In the United States, it is estimated that about 2,500 teens daily abuse these “legal” drugs for the first time. They do so to get high, relieve stress or to self-medicate. One alarming finding of the survey is that most teens get those prescription drugs from their own family members or from friends, usually without them knowing about it.
There are steps that parents can take to prevent this type of drug abuse in their homes and protect their children from the dangers of the misuse of prescription drugs.
Get Rid of Old or Unused Medications
First of all, get rid of any prescription drugs that have expired or that you did not use when they were first prescribed. For example, if you had surgery or dental work done and you were given pain pills but only took a few of them, discard the rest.
Be careful how you dispose of old medications. Do not flush them down the drain. Dispose of them when your teenagers are not around. Since teens looking for buzz will look in the trash for discarded medications, mix the pills with something unpleasant, such as coffee grounds, and then discard them.
Also, be sure to remove the labels from the prescription bottles or packaging before you discard them to prevent unauthorized refills or identity theft.
Count Your Pills
Another way to prevent misuse of prescription drugs is to closely monitor their use. If possible, keep a close count of how many pills are left in the bottle or packaging. Keep up with the refill date. If you find that you run out of a medication before the prescription is scheduled to be refilled, there may be a problem.
If your teen has been prescribed a medication, closely monitor the refills and how often the drug is taken. For example, one of the most abused prescription drugs is Ritalin, a medication prescribed to teens for ADHD.
If there are any close relatives or friends that your child has ties with, talk with them about the risks and ask them to carefully monitor their medications and medicine cabinets.
Secure Your Medications
The bathroom medicine cabinet is the first place kids will look for drugs. Teens wanting to get high will visit the homes of friends, ask to use the bathroom and go straight for the medicine cabinet.
If possible, remove your prescription medications from the family medicine cabinet and hide or secure them in a safe place. Even some over-the-counter medications, such as cough syrup containing dextromethorphan, should also be secured in a safe location.
Again, talk with Aunts, Uncles, Grandparents and the parents of your teen’s friends and encourage them to keep their medications hidden or secured.
Talk with Your Children
The best way to prevent teen abuse of drugs is to sit down and talk with them. Another alarming fact revealed in the Monitoring the Future survey was that most teens do not consider prescription or over-the-counter drugs as dangerous as illicit drugs, because they are legal and are prescribed by a doctor.
Let your children know that the misuse of prescription drugs is not safer than abusing illegal drugs and can be just as dangerous.
The Monitoring the Future Survey included 46,348 students from 386 public and private schools in the 8th, 10th and 12th grades. The survey is funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
University of Michigan. “Monitoring the Future.” 11 December 2008