Chelsea, Aaron, Ronnie, Kent, Joey, Courtney — this list of names unfortunately could go on and on. Each of these teens and young adults has been impacted by medicine abuse. Some have died, some have become addicted and some are in recovery. It’s a frightening fact that there are now more deaths from prescription drug overdoses than car crashes. And believe it or not, the No. 1 drug of choice among 12- and 13- year-olds is prescription medicine. Every day more than 2,000 teens abuse prescription drugs for the first time. The Medicine Abuse Project aims to prevent medicine abuse by 500,000 teens within the next five years.
We all must ask ourselves, “What’s in our medicine cabinet?” From old prescriptions to over-the-counter pain relievers, this epidemic has teens raiding medicine cabinets of friends and relatives for painkillers and other prescriptions as a means to get high.
Medicine abuse occurs for many reasons, but easy access is one of the main reasons — along with the perception among teens that medicine is safe to take because it’s prescribed by a doctor. To see what an impact medicine abuse has had on families, there is a compelling 11-minute video where parents and youth share their stories.
DrugFreeAz.org also has a prescription-drug prevention page with a local story of a mom who lost her son, Adam, to an overdose. Ask around; I bet it won’t take long to find a friend, colleague or acquaintance who knows someone struggling with a medicine abuse problem. DrugFreeAz.org supports the work on the Medicine Abuse Project and is doing what we can to stop this epidemic.
Here are some tips DrugFreeAz.org offers:
Lock it up
With the pressures from school, friends and easy accessibility to prescription and over-the-counter medication, teens may become curious and start abusing what’s around the house. To ensure your teen doesn’t get into trouble with prescriptions, lock the medicine cabinet or keep medications in a secure place.
Many teens do not understand the dangers associated with prescription drug abuse. Unlike illicit drugs, teens often feel prescription drugs are safer because they are legal and prescribed by a doctor. What they don’t know? Prescription drugs are just as dangerous, can be addictive and have side effects that are just as bad as those of illicit drugs. By not monitoring the medication, parents take a risk of their teen abusing medication around the house. Be a proactive parent and take routine inventory of all prescription and over-the-counter medications in the house.
Drug abuse of any kind is a parent’s worst nightmare. To help avoid potential drug abuse, communication is essential. It is imperative parents discuss the dangers of abusing prescriptions with your teen. DrugFreeAZ.org offers helpful ways to start conversations with teens. The more open the conversation, the more likely they will be honest about the things they are doing and any curiosities they might have about painkillers, prescriptions and other drugs.
When old or expired prescriptions and medicine are not being used, it is important to dispose of them to avoid trouble. Instead of disposing medications at home in the trash, parents can take prescriptions to drop-off locations around your community for safe disposal. Contact your local drug enforcement agency for authorized drop-off locations.