Teens may be boozing less but now they're abusing the prescription drugs foundin home medicine cabinets
Hey parents, I have some good news and bad news. First, the good news. Your teenagers are boozing less and using fewer street drugs like cocaine and Ecstasy than previous generations. Now the bad news, they’re getting high on prescription painkillers like Oxy and Vicodin.
Though overall teen drug use is down nationwide, more teens abuse prescription drugs than any other illicit drug, except marijuana. Teens are abusing prescription drugs because they’re easy to get and they’re often free. You’re probably thinking, "Free? Where in the world are they free?" In a recent survey, 65 percent of teens who abuse prescription pain relievers say they get them from you, Mom and Dad (or Grandma or their friends).
Remember those painkillers you took for your bad back? How many did you take? How many were left over? Where are they? Would you miss them if a few disappeared? Probably not. Abuse of prescription drugs is a major problem with about one in four teens admitting to have taken these drugs in the past year. Do you realize abuse of these drugs accounts for one quarter of a million ER visits each year?
If you thought only adults abused prescription drugs, you thought wrong. Prescription drugs are the drug of choice among 12- to 13-year-olds! One third of all new prescription drug abusers in 2006 were 12- to 17-year-olds and 60 percent of teens (12-17) first tried them before age 15?
And it gets worse. Drugs used to treat behavioral disorders like Ritalin and Adderall are also popular with teens. With five million children taking these legally, it’s easy to find someone using them and just as easy to “borrow” a few or steal some without anyone missing them.
Even drugs you might not associate with getting high, such as those used to treat anxiety disorders such as Xanax or Valium are prime targets for teens.
If you’re still wondering why so many kids are taking these drugs, many kids mistakenly believe that they must be safe because a doctor prescribed them. Well, yeah, a doctor prescribed them, but for SOMEONE ELSE. The point is it’s not safe because it wasn’t prescribed for them.
Using a prescription drug to get high is no safer than taking an illegal drug. Prescription drugs are powerful and can be as dangerous as cocaine or heroin. Even one improper use of a prescription drug can be dangerous and abuse of prescription drugs can result in addiction, serious health issues and, in some cases, death.
Mom and Dad, here are three important things you should do to prevent your child from misusing prescription medication:
EDUCATE yourself about medications that kids are abusing.
COMMUNICATE with your kids so they understand the dangers of taking any medication that has not been prescribed for them.
SAFEGUARD your medications at home and other places. Lock ‘em up and safely dispose of medicines you no longer take. This means contacting local authorities to ask where you can legally dispose of your prescription drugs. Don’t flush them down the toilet!
Teens must learn that pharmaceutical drugs can be just as dangerous as illicit street drugs. They need to know it’s not just a matter of over-dosing, but that mixing different drugs, or combining drugs and alcohol, can be just as deadly (witness what happened to Whitney Houston). And they need to know that it is illegal to use, or to provide someone else with a prescription drug that has not been prescribed specifically for them. If caught they will go to jail.