Did you know that 9.7 percent of 12th graders reported taking Vicodin recreationally in the past year? Or, that 4.7 percent of these same students abused OxyContin, too? With these statistics in mind, we’ve written our ‘Parents: Keep Prescription Medicine Safe at Home,’ a guide to preventing teen drug abuse.
Amphetamine consumption among teens has also been on the rise with 4.5 percent of eighth graders admitting they’ve used it. These stats increase to 4.5 percent among 10th graders and 6.8 percent among 12th graders.
Sobering figures like these point to a dangerous trend in prescription drug use among teens. They also beg the question: how can we keep medicine safe and away from our kids?
Especially if we have prescriptions lying around the house?
Taking action to prevent or stop medicine abuse remains key to protecting our loved ones. Let’s explore steps we can take to start doing this today.
Teen-Proof Your Home
When your children were toddlers, you took prescription medicine storage very seriously. And this certainly extended to other over-the-counter drugs as well as just about anything that could be construed as a choking hazard.
As our kids grow, though, we become more lax about home-based safety hazards. The gates come down, and the child-safety gadgets come off the cabinet doors. But truth be told, your guard needs to stay up when it comes to medicines.
Keeping your kids drug-free starts with responsibly storing and disposing of your medications, both prescription and over-the-counter. Here are some tips that will help you secure your home and protect your kids.
Take Medicine Storage Seriously
As the saying goes “An ounce of prevention is worth half a pound of cure.” This proves true not only when it comes to illness but also when it comes to preventing medicine and drug abuse among our kids.
Here’s a stat that should get your attention. Of the teens who’ve abused prescription medicines, two-thirds say they ascertained the substances that they used from family, friends, or acquaintances.
In other words, the best way to stop the abuse of home drugs is by locking medicine storage containers. Experts suggest securing your medicine the way you would your jewelry, other valuables, cash, and handguns.
Take them out of your medicine cabinet and stow them in a place where only you know to look for them. The same goes for over-the-counter meds, too. But don’t stop there.
Locked Medicine Organizer Ideas
A locked cabinet or safe represents your first line of defense against prescription drug abuse. There are also a variety of affordable devices that you can purchase specifically for safe drug storage.
These medicine safe-lock boxes will protect your prescriptions and over-the-counter meds from getting into the wrong hands. Look for one with a steel-reinforced composite body and a secure locking mechanism.
While many can be stored in your medicine cabinet due to their size, we still suggest placing them out of sight and out of mind.
Along with keeping tabs on your medicine cabinet, you need to have a serious talk with your friends and family members. Especially if your teen (or their friends) could gain access to medicine cabinets at their homes.
Make sure your children’s grandparents and older relatives are well-aware of the dangers of prescription drug abuse. For elderly relatives, we also suggest helping them ensure their medicines are secure and protected.
Keep Track of Your Pills
Besides locking away your prescription and over-the-counter meds, it’s also important to pay attention to your pill counts. This can be as simple as keeping notes on a post-it where you store your medicines.
Take note of how many pills are in each prescription bottle. Remember to track your refills, too.
Which drugs should you remain most vigilant about? As you’ve probably heard, we’re in the midst of a pervasive, chronic opioid crisis. It’s taken the lives of countless celebrities, athletes, and everyday Americans.
Opioids are prescription pain relievers, and they can prove very dangerous for adults, let alone teens. Also pay close attention to stimulants such as ADHD medications and benzodiazepines, which are anti-anxiety medicines and sedatives.
Other drugs that pose a threat to your teens include sleep aids and even dietary supplements.
Properly Dispose of All Medications
How you throw away medications could also lead to opportunities for drug abuse not only for your teens but also for opportunistic kids in your neighborhood. How should you safely throw away unused medications?
Participate in a safe drug disposal program. Local pharmacies often hold these events, and they’re usually advertised as drug take-back days. You should also research ongoing community-wide initiatives near you.
These represent a long term, convenient solution when it comes to throwing away old meds. Find a program that can provide you with a drug deactivation bag or opt for a drug mail-back program.
What’s more, properly disposing of medicines safeguards our environment for future generations.
Recent studies suggest that many of our waterways are already contaminated by chemicals from medicines flushed down the sink or toilet. By responsibly getting rid of your old prescriptions and over-the-counter pills, you do everyone a favor.
Start a Conversation
It’s also important to keep the lines of communication open when it comes to our children. Make sure your kids know about the dangers of drug use by speaking to them early and often.
Many of us remember to talk to our kids about the dangers associated with alcohol, tobacco, and illicit drug use. But we fail to discuss prescription medicines.
Yet, these form a crucial core of substances that threaten our kids’ well-being and safety.
Consider this. Of the 4.6 million Americans who visited the ER in 2009 due to drugs, the majority — 27 percent of cases — were attributed to non-medical pharmaceutical use. These cases included over-the-counter medicines, too.
We understand that having these conversations can feel uncomfortable. They often verge on territory that we have no experience with. After all, many of us grew up in households where drugs were rarely, if ever, discussed.
Remember that in the long run, your kids will thank you for going the extra mile to keep dangerous, addictive substances out of their hands. They’ll also appreciate the dialogue you start with them. Even if you don’t know what to say at first.
Know the Signs of Addiction
Taking the precautions above will provide you with peace of mind when it comes to the safety of
your teens. Of course, it can be more difficult to keep track of your kids’ exposure to drugs at school or through friends and acquaintances.
Do you have a bad feeling that you can’t shake when it comes to how your teen has been behaving lately? Sometimes this represents the first red flag that something’s wrong.
After all, whether or not they’re willing to admit it, nobody knows your teen better than you do.
Signs of addiction include:
- Failure to meet normal responsibilities (missing school, incomplete homework)
- Impaired control
- Erratic behavior
- Unexplained mood swings
- Health issues
- Risky behaviors that put your teens or others in danger
Understanding and recognizing the signs of addiction can help you know when it’s time to intervene. What’s more, if your teen is already descending into substance abuse, the likelihood of them asking for help will prove slim.
Get Help If Necessary
If you think your child is struggling with a more serious drug problem, ignoring it will only exacerbate the issue. What’s more, it could threaten their life. Drug use can quickly lead to full-blown addiction.
Time is of the essence. Don’t let feelings of inadequacy or guilt as a parent get in the way of providing your teen with the help they need. When confronted, addicts often lash out in cruel, manipulative ways to continue their substance abuse habit.
Don’t second guess yourself. Instead, act decisively to guarantee your teen has the help they need.
And after that? Your job isn’t finished. Check out these tips to help you effectively support them through rehab and longterm recovery.
Keeping Your Medicine Safe
As the opioid crisis has demonstrated over recent years, prescriptions drugs can prove just as dangerous as illegal ones. Even for the individuals that they’re prescribed to.
Unfortunately, we all tend to think of prescription drugs as less harmful than street drugs like crack and meth. This stems from the fact they’re doctor-prescribed and legal. We often inadvertently pass this faulty perception on to our kids.
After all, we’re often the first individuals to administer over-the-counter and prescription drugs to them. We do this to “make them feel better.” These messages get ingrained into our children from a young age and can prove confusing.
What’s more, if your kids have watched you pop pills now and again to “calm your nerves” or take away some “aches and pains,” they may have an ill-formed notion of the real dangers lurking behind those orange bottles.
Start by keeping your medicine safe and having a conversation with your kids. Not sure how that dialogue should go? Continue reading for five ways to prevent drug abuse.