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Saturday, June 25, 2011

Advice For Parents - Rx Drugs

Many parents are at a loss about what to do concerning drug abuse. The drug culture today poses new, daunting problems. The abuse of prescription drugs is at epidemic proportions.Prescription drugs are widely available and easy to obtain. These drugs provide young people with an easily accessible, inexpensive means of altering their mental and physical states.


Because these drugs are so readily available, and many teens believe they are a safe way to get high, teens who wouldn't otherwise touch illicit drugs might abuse prescription drugs. And not many parents are talking to them about it, even though teens report that parental disapproval is a powerful way to keep them away from drugs. (Partnership for Drug-free America, Partnership Attitude Tracking Study, 2007)

Every day 2,500 youth age 12 to 17 abuse a pain reliever for the very first time. More teens abuse prescription drugs than any illicit drug except marijuana. In 2008, more than 2.1 million teens ages 12 to 17 reported abusing prescription drugs. Among 12- and 13-year-olds, prescription drugs are the drug of choice. (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 2008)

Prescription drugs - what mind set contributes to their wide acceptance? Consider the following prevalent attitude that teens develop concerning over-the-counter medications:

"Today's teens have grown up learning about the dangers of street drugs. They are much more likely than teens of the past to believe that there are social, financial, and health risks involved with drug use. Our children know that using drugs may result in family conflict, losing friends, relinquishing their driver's licenses, and missing out on opportunities for college financial aid and subsequent employment. They are also aware of some of the health risks of street drugs like marijuana, such as disruption in short-term memory and a potential for cancer down the road.

"But today's young people have also grown up in a society in which there is a pill to cure every ailment - aches and pains, sleep disturbances, overweight, anxiety, and even impotence. Many of these medications, such as cough syrups, diet pills, and sleep aids, can be purchased over the counter, and they are available for little or no cost in a variety of locations - in grandma's purse and mom and dad's medicine cabinet, or even on the Internet.

"Because OTC (over-the-counter) medications are both readily available and widely used, it may be hard for children to comprehend why they are appropriate to take in one situation but not another, which may lead young teens to begin experimenting with them. Children may not even use OTC medications to get high, but to relieve stress or pain, or just to relax. It's important for parents to understand how and why kids get involved in OTC drug use so they can recognize the problem and help their child stay drug-free."
("Teen OTC and Prescription Drug Abuse," Aspen Education Group,, 2008)

What the Experts Say


Research shows that certain approaches to parenting can often make a difference. Grandparents and other non-traditional caregivers also can benefit from better understanding, communicating and connecting with the teen in their lives.

Prescription drug abuse among teens is a growing and serious problem that many parents are unaware of.  Here’s some important advice:
  • Get the facts. More teens abuse prescription drugs than any illicit drug except marijuana. In 2006, more than 2.1 million teens ages 12 to 17 reported abusing prescription drugs.
  • The most commonly abused prescription medications are painkillers, like OxyContin® or Vicodin®. These produce sensations of euphoria and pleasure and are highly addictive. They can easily lead to overdose when crushed and snorted or mixed with other drugs, such as alcohol. 
  • Depressants, such as Valium® or Xanax®, are also commonly abused by teens. These drugs make users feel calm and reduce anxiety and tension. They are addictive and can be deadly when used in combination with prescription pain medications, some over-the-counter (OTC) cold and allergy drugs, or alcohol.
  • In addition, stimulants, such as medications for ADD and ADHD – Ritalin® and Adderall® --are being abused by many teens to “help study better” in response to excessive pressure to do well in school or to suppress appetite for weight loss.  These medications can be addictive, cause feelings of fear or paranoia and lead to serious health problems.
  • Some OTC medications, such as cough medications containing dextromethorphan, are also abused by teenagers. 

Dr. Drew Gives Some Advice

Dr. Drew Pinsky, host of the television series Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew, offers some advice to parents: 

("A Back To School Chat With Dr. Drew and the Nation's Drug Czar," Parents. The Anti-Drug,, 2009)

Dr. Drew: First of all, get the pills out of your medicine cabinet. Make sure that substances such as pharmaceuticals are treated in your household with the care and safeguarding that reflects your understanding as a parent of just how dangerous these substances are. Include your children in the information on why you’re doing this. They shouldn’t be able to open the medicine cabinet and see Vicodin left over from your wisdom tooth extraction or sleeping pills from your airplane trip. The medicine should be under lock and key, or out of your house.

Dr. Drew: ... helping raise the levels of perceived risk is critical. More often than not, that is about how we live our lives. So treating medication casually, using alcohol and cigarettes without careful education and structure, is extremely problematic. We must walk the walk as well as talk the talk.

Dr. Drew: Kids want you to do your parenting. They may not like it, but they want it. There’s some sort of peculiar leftover from our own adolescence in history when there was much more of a need to cast off the yoke of a past generation. This generation tends to look to adults as more of an asset. It is a normal, elemental behavior to fiercely fight against the limits placed on them by parents and then deeply appreciate the parents’ efforts to not be afraid of doing the right thing. Do not be afraid of doing your job.

Dr. Drew: ... the Internet is a dangerous place, and there is ample opportunity for people to access medications of various kinds. Most importantly, I would urge parents to use technology to monitor young people, know what technologies they’re using, have all their passwords, monitor their histories. Follow this downstream, and see what other kids are saying about yours. Don’t be afraid of the Internet, it can be a great tool.

Dr. Drew: (How do parents get through?) There’s no magic potion for that one except to say to spend time. Know where your opportunities lie. For instance, just before bedtime tends to be a quieter time of day, particularly for adolescent females, and they are more open to conversation. So merely going into a child’s room, late at night, and sitting down. Making sure you have at least one meal together. Make a point of seeking out your children. Driving in a car is a great opportunity – they can’t run away. Another opportunity, again, is when other kids are around. Don’t assume you have to retreat because their peers are in the vicinity.

Dr. Drew: (Warning signs about a problem with a child that may involve drugs?) ... change in appearance, sleep patterns, peer group change, isolating, lying, disappearing for periods of time, outbursts of anger or irritability, hygiene changes. These are signs of global mental health problems; there are no specific signs for prescription drug use, per se, but a child manifesting these symptoms needs attention.

Dr. Drew: I sympathize with parents trying to raise a family in today’s economic time; it’s not easy. But we’ve given you lots of ideas about monitoring and employing school and community resources. Use what’s available. The care of your children has got to be a priority. If it is not, I would reconsider your priorities, and think very carefully about where you want to put your attention. In terms of what makes people happy, it’s usually family life or relationships – not that they should have spent more time at the office.

Substance Abuse Treatment Facility Locator

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is pleased to provide this on-line resource for locating drug and alcohol abuse treatment programs. The Substance Abuse Treatment Facility Locator lists:

*  Private and public facilities that are licensed, certified, or otherwise approved for inclusion by their State substance abuse agency 
*  Treatment facilities administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Indian Health Service and the Department of Defense.

The Substance Abuse Treatment Facility Locator:

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