We hear about teen drug addiction and abuse every day. It’s a major issue in our society and disrupts the lives of teens and their families on a daily basis. Most parents are aware of the dangers and prevalence of illicit drugs. However, many underestimate or are not fully aware of the risks lurking in their own homes.
When it comes to teens and prescription drug abuse, the numbers don’t lie. In fact, every day in the United States, 2500 youth ages 12 to 17 begin to abuse prescription pain medications, and 50% of teens believe that prescription drugs are much safer than illegal drugs.
The Gateway to Drug Abuse
Prescription medications like Oxycodone, Xanax, Hydrocodone, Percocet, etc. are often the first exposure teens have to drug use. Prescribed medications used by parents or other family members are easily accessible, and carry far less stigma than purchasing or trying illegal drugs such as marijuana, methamphetamine, heron, cocaine, etc. Teen prescription drug abuse, however, is a very serious problem. In fact, 60% to 70% of teens who abuse drugs admit that home medicine cabinets are their source for getting high and that they are given these drugs by friends or relatives. Complicating matters is the fact that 23% of teenagers say their parents are less concerned about their abusing prescriptions than about “street drugs.”
Perhaps the biggest problem with prescription drug abuse is that it often provides a gateway to other dangerous drugs such as heroin. When family members start asking questions, or their usual pills become scarce it’s often too late.
What types of prescription drugs are most likely to be abused?
Children will use and abuse almost any drug in the medicine cabinet, but the drugs carrying the highest risk of abuse include pain relievers like Vicodin, Oxycodone, or Codeine. Also at risk are anxiety or sleep medications such as Valium or Xanax. Even medications for ADHD, such as Adderall and Ritalin, prescribed for themselves or others, can induce a high when overused or administered improperly.
All this adds up to an increasing trend that’s hard to swallow. The ages of kids beginning drug use keeps decreasing and the number of teens moving to harder drugs like heroin is increasing.
Check and Lock Your Medicine Cabinet
Checking and even locking your medicine cabinet when not in use is important. Checking to make sure your pills aren’t being used is good, but locking them up so your children can’t get a hold of them is even better. But even if you lock them up, check anyway. Children are smart. They may have found the key or another way to get in and access the medicine cabinet. If they did, they could be using drugs while you think your medication is secure and your children are safe.
What Can Parents Do?
Probably the most important thing you can do as a parent is be aware. Educate yourself on prescription drugs and which ones may be of particular interest to teens. Keep your own medications in a safe place, and keep an eye on how many pills are left. Promptly dispose of any unused portion. And never neglect to talk to your teen about the dangers of these drugs. Make sure they understand the seriousness of prescription drug abuse, and make your own expectations clear.
If you are worried about your teen and prescription drugs, get the advice of a professional right away. The earlier you take action, the better chance your teen has of turning away from these and other addictive substances.
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Written by William Charles, Owner and Publisher of Kill the Heroin Epidemic Nationwide™, Heroin News, and the National Alliance of Addiction Treatment Centers (NAATC)
We are a community for recovering heroin addicts providing support and recommending the best treatments and clinics to people interested in conquering their addiction.
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