Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Drug Abuse in Teens- from YOUR Medicine Cabinet

Prescription drug abuse is at an all time high- no pun intended. Sadly, studies have found that 1 in 5 high school students say they have taken a prescription drug without a prescription. What are they taking? Pain killers, stimulants, and anxiety medications. Specifically, the most common drugs are OxyContin & Percocet (narcotic pain pills), Ritalin & Adderall (ADD stimulant drugs), and Xanax (an anti-anxiety sedative like valium.)

It frankly terrifies me to hear of kids swapping prescription medications, particularly ones as potent as these. Add in that the pain and anxiety pills are usually combined with alcohol, and you now have a recipe to take your breath away- literally. Both narcotics and alcohol can suppress your drive to breathe, and they are additive when taken together. Accidental overdose is the second leading cause of death for teenagers, and inappropriately used prescription drugs are believed to be major culprit. There is often a false feeling of security with getting a buzz from a prescription drug. Surely, if a doctor prescribed it for her, then it is safe for me, right? Wrong.

What can parents do about this alarming trend? Number one, TALK to your teen and ask (in a non-threatening, conversational tone) if they are aware of anyone borrowing prescription medications from friends. Let them know this is dangerous, even when someone else is using the drug for the same reason it was prescribed in the first place (like friends sharing ADD meds to be able to focus better in class.) The reality is that although there is plenty of "altruistic" sharing of medications, most "sharing" is for side effects- the buzz of the narcotic or sedative, or the appetite suppressant effects of the ADD drugs. At any rate, talking with your teen lets them know you are aware of this risky behavior in general. Next step? Take a close look at your medication cabinet. Throw away expired drugs, and keep close inventory of any potentially abused medications. Finally, if you realize that you are using prescription drugs inappropriately, it's time for a difficult conversation with your physician. You can't abuse it if we don't prescribe it, so this is a problem we need to tackle together, and there are solutions beyond simply cutting you off.

BOTTOM LINE: Prescription drug abuse is out of control. Learn the facts and protect and educate your teens. Get more info at the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

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