Currently, as many as 1 in 4 teenagers have abused prescription drugs. As the issue of young adults abusing prescription medications continues to grow within our nation, many parents are left wondering what they can do to ensure the safety of their children. Smart Moves, Smart Choices is a campaign to help both teenagers and parents become aware of this growing issue and how to help stop it.
First and foremost, if you as a parent are concerned that your child or another child you know is abusing prescription pain medications, start by talking to the teenager. Most importantly, be open and nonjudgmental. Usually, abuse of prescription medication is indicative of an underlying issue, and teenagers need to be heard and know that help is available and that he or she is cared for. Be supportive. Share the facts with your teenagers; those who openly talk to their parents about the risks of drug abuse are 50 percent less likely to use drugs in the first place, and many times teenagers are misguided about the risks of prescription drugs. More than 40 percent of teenagers believe they are safer to use than street drugs. Lastly, get the child help. Talk to a guidance counselor, a nurse, a principal, a doctor. Do not try to hide it or fix it by yourself. Teenagers who are abusing prescription medication need support and help.
Of note, parents need to be aware of the signs that their child may be abusing prescription medication. The effects of prescription drugs is related to what kind of prescription drug the child is taking.
He or she may be drowsy with an inability to concentrate and smaller pupils. He or she may be flushed or be constipated. Most dangerously, he or she may be experiencing a slower rate of breathing.
Your child may have enlarged pupils with slurred speech, loss of motor coordination, and fatigue. His or her blood pressure may be low, and the rate of breathing may be slowed. Inhibitions may be lowered. He or she may experience poor concentration, impaired judgment, and confusion.
He or she may have increased appetite, heart rate, respiration rate, and blood pressure. His or her pupils may be enlarged, and he or she may experience dizziness, tremors, headache, flushed skin, and sweating. Parents may see restlessness, anxiety, aggression, panic, or paranoia.
Parents also need to be aware of how to store prescription medications within their home. Often times, homes are the easiest place for teenagers to gain access to prescription drugs. Smart Moves, Smart Choices recommends two easy solutions. Do not store prescription drugs in medicine cabinets where they are easily accessible. Instead, store them in a secure area that children do not know about and consider placing the medications within a locked compartment. Next, it is important to know what is within the home. It is recommended that the amounts of medication within each bottle are monitored. This way, if pills mysteriously disappear or the bottle needs to be refilled more frequently than usual, the issue can be identified quickly. It is also recommended that relatives and parents of other teenagers be educated on storing prescription drugs in safe places. The more who are aware of this issue and how to avoid it, the better!
For parents who have medications that have expired or are sitting unused, it is important they know the proper way to dispose of these medications so they do not become abuse potential. First, it is vital that medications are not flushed down the toilet; these medications will then be in the water system for people to ingest. When it comes time to dispose of prescription medications, make sure labels are removed so that no one else can attempt to refill the bottle. Smart Moves, Smart Choices also advocates that the medication be removed from the bottle and mixed with another “undesirable” substance to discourage teenagers or others from taking the pills from the trash. Additionally, parents should check with their local police department on ways to safely dispose of prescription medications. Within Chatham County, there are anonymous safe drop boxes at all police stations where anyone can drop off unlabeled pills into a secure box with no questions asked.
For more details, please see the Smart Moves, Smart Choices website. http://www.smartmovessmartchoices.org/