Making the mistake of thinking prescription drugs are safe or pose no threat to the other members of your household could be an incredibly dangerous way of thinking. Although we are lead to believe street drugs like heroin and cocaine lead more frequently to addiction and even death, in reality more Americans die from prescription drug use than cocaine, heroin, inhalants and hallucinogens combined. Teens in particular are susceptible to prescription drug abuse simply because they are so easy to obtain.
How to keep teens from abusing prescription drugs
Most frequently teens are getting prescription drugs for free from friends or family—over 50 percent of the time.
Unfortunately, parents are partially to blame. When kids are little drugs are locked away and stored in a safe place to prevent small fingers from finding them, but when they grow up its assumed they know better not to ingest poisons or take drugs not prescribed to them, and that isn’t always the case.
As a parent ask yourself, would you know if some of your prescription drugs went missing? If you aren’t sure how many you have or leave old, left over pills in your cabinet it’s much easier for your kids to help themselves.
Secure prescription drugs and dispose of old prescriptions
It may sound dramatic, but if you would lock your guns away, why wouldn’t you also lock your prescriptions away? Even if you’re absolutely positive your kids know better, what about their friends? Keeping prescriptions in your medicine cabinet is giving anyone who visits your house easy access to drugs.
If you have unfinished prescriptions in your house you can check to see if your city offers a disposal service, many do, frequently through city police services.
Educate your family
Finally, find out what your kids think about prescription drugs. Many mistakenly believe prescription drugs are safe to take because they were from a doctor. Talk to your family about the dangers of prescription drugs—not just the danger of ingesting them, but the serious legal trouble they can get into for taking pills that aren’t prescribed to them. There are laws on both a federal and state level that make it illegal to take or share prescription drugs not implicitly prescribed to you by your doctor.
If caught with pills sans prescription the individual carrying them could face similar charges to someone caught with marijuana or worse.
How can you tell if your teen is taking prescription drugs?
Drug abuse can lead to a host of related and serious problems not limited to medical issues like respiratory distress and seizures. Your kids could be more likely to make bad choices like driving impaired, engaging in dangerous, unprotected or unwanted sexual activity and are putting themselves at risk to predators.
Be able to identify common indicators
Although common indicators of drug use could also signal other unrelated issues in your kids life, if you recognize the following signs in your kids look into the cause of these behaviors.
The first and perhaps most obvious indicator of drug abuse is missing pills from another family members prescription which is why it is so important to be constantly aware of how many pills are remaining. Keep in mind if they are easily accessible, it may not be someone in your household taking them.
Beyond missing medication, look for dramatic changes in your kids behaviors, friends and activities. Teens are notorious for sleeping late, but falling asleep earlier, staying up for days on end or sleeping at irregular times can be a sign of drug use. Some medications like Ritalin can keep the body up, while others like Xanax will generally lead to exhaustion.
An equally notorious behavior can be the need for privacy, secrecy and the desire for time alone or with friends. What you should look for is sudden changes in the people your kids are spending time with, a lack of interest in clubs, sports or family activities they used to enjoy, and inordinate amounts of time spent alone in their room or an unwillingness to be at home.
Finally, look for changes in appearance. If your child normally cares a great deal about personal hygiene and dress but starts to neglect their appearance this is often an indicator something else is going on in their life. You should also be concerned if they lose weight suddenly. Some drugs can lead to suppressed appetite and teens mistakenly think they are a good way to maintain or reduce weight.
Talk to your family about prescriptions while they’re young
During teenage years it can be really difficult to maintain an open relationship with your kids and talking to them when they are trying to shut you out can be frustrating. Talking to your family about drug use before they are a teen can help make conversations when they’re older easier. Avoid ‘lecturing’ and aim for a conversation that includes asking for your families options and encouraging questions.
If you create an open environment with your family you not only have an increased awareness of their thoughts but will be able to identify sudden changes much easier down the road.