As a follow-up to the very successful Drug Take Back Day that was held recently in our community, I want to talk about some ways that we can help protect our children from drug abuse and addiction. Some of this information is from an article on the website Parents. The Anti-Drug.
Several national studies have just released statistics revealing that more teens abuse prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs than any other illicit drug, except marijuana. Among 12 and 13 year olds, prescription drugs are their drug of choice. The news is staggering: over 2 million teens and preteens abuse prescription drugs every year; over 3 million people ages 12 to 25 have used cough medicine to get high. Prescription drug abuse kills more people than methamphetamine, cocaine, and heroin combined.
This means that millions of us parents and grandparents have been caught off-guard while an epidemic of drug abuse has been occurring in our communities and often right in our own homes. The good news is that we have the power to prevent our children’s access to medicines abused as drugs.
What can we do? There are a few easy ways to begin:
1. Safeguard all drugs at home. Review all medications – including prescription medications and OTC medications – that you are storing: find a place to lock them so that only you have access.
2. Properly conceal and dispose of old or unused medicines — and control the distribution of every prescription written for your family members. Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) medications such as Adderall and Ritalin are being shared among teens. Prescription painkillers are widely abused, and even antidepressants and high blood pressure medicines are being shared among our teenagers. If your child is taking a prescription drug for any reason, be sure that he or she is not selling, sharing, or increasing his or her own dosage. Ask your prescribing doctor to review the proper use and dosage of each medication with your child. Monitor dosage and use. The Drug Take Back Day that was held in April will be an annual event, so that will give you a safe, easy, and environmentally friendly way to dispose of old and unused drugs annually.
3. Talk to your teen and preteen about the dangers of abusing prescription and over-the-counter drugs. These are powerful drugs that, when abused, can be just as dangerous as street drugs. Tell your teen the risks far outweigh any “benefits.”
Set clear rules for teens about all drug use, including not sharing medicine. Define prescription and OTC drug abuse and clarify why it is so important to not share medicine and to always follow the medical provider’s advice and dosages. Teens should never take prescription or OTC drugs with street drugs or alcohol, which tragically is happening all too frequently.
Read up! And be prepared to discuss the dangers of abuse. Parents. The Anti-Drug website is a good place to begin. Remember that one of your most powerful tools in preventing drug abuse is expressing your disappointment in your child’s behavior. Most teens say that losing their parents’ approval is their number one reason to not use drugs.
4. Be a good role model by following these same rules with your own medicines. Examine your own behavior to ensure you set a good example. If you misuse your prescription drugs, such as sharing them with your kids or anyone else or abusing them yourself, your teen will take notice. Always follow your medical provider’s instructions.
5. Ask friends and family to safeguard their prescription drugs as well. Make sure your friends and relatives, especially grandparents, know about the risks, too, and encourage them to regularly monitor their own medicine cabinets. If there are other households your teen has access to, talk to those families as well about the importance of medications. If you don’t know the parents of your child’s friends, then make an effort to get to know them, and get on the same page about rules and expectations for use of all drugs, including alcohol and illicit drugs. Follow up with your teen’s school administration to find out what they are doing to address issues of prescription and over-the-counter drug abuse in schools.
By working together, we can help to make this a drug free community.