Parents, Peers Can Curb Risk of Prescription Drug Abuse Among Teens

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Parents, Peers Can Curb Risk of Prescription Drug Abuse Among TeensPrescription drug abuse is a growing problem in America. The abuse is happening not only among the adults who buy prescription medications, but it is a problem for our young people as well. Yet despite the fact that prescription drug abuse among young people continues to rise, new studies say there are things that can be done to minimize the risk. Studies agree that strong social support is one of the leading factors in preventing prescription drug abuse.

Prescription drug use among teens is on the rise for a couple of reasons. To begin with, prescription drugs are easy access substances. Nearly every household in America has some kind of prescription medication within easy reach. Secondly, the problem persists because of a lack of clear understanding and proper education about the dangers of prescription drug use. Stated more simply, kids find the drugs easy to get and don’t view them as high-risk substances.

The fact that doctors prescribe these medications makes them appear less dangerous to teens and adults alike. Drugs which are publicly dispensed medications seem safer than street drugs made and sold in secret. In fact, prescription medications are powerful drugs which can do a great deal of damage when taken outside of a doctor’s prescribed use.

A University of Cincinnati study on the subject of teens and prescription drug use examined data gathered through the 2009-2010 Pride Survey. The Pride Survey is a national survey aimed at measuring behaviors like drug use and violence across the country.  The survey gave researchers access to information on 54,000 boys and girls in grades 7 through 12. The survey’s population was roughly half male and half female.

Though a significant number of teens had abused the drugs, the abuse patterns were not the same for everyone. The study found that nearly 14 percent of kids surveyed admitted to having misused prescription drugs at least once. Boys abused prescription drugs more often than girls, and the older kids were, the more likely it became that they had abused. In other words, high school kids were more likely to have misused the medications than junior high kids. And Latino kids were more likely than either black or white kids to have abused the drugs.

Having a peer group that promoted or even accepted drug use raised the likelihood that teens were abusing prescription drugs. If the teen had friends who smoked cigarettes or marijuana or who drank alcohol, the teen was more likely to also misuse prescription drugs. Fortunately the flip side was also true.

Teens with a strong parent/child bond in which mom and dad talked to their kids about the dangers of drug use showed a lower risk for prescription drug abuse. Other positive relationships also lowered a teen’s risk for abuse. Having positive relationships with his/her school authorities (teachers, coaches, counselors, etc.) also lowered a teen’s risk.

If the teen had a peer group that disapproved of drug use, this was another risk-lowering factor.  Regardless of age, having a group of friends who were anti-drug use helped mitigate the risk that the child or teen would misuse doctor-prescribed drugs. Strong, positive relationships with peers, parents and the school all worked to protect a teen against the likelihood of prescription drug abuse.

The University of Cincinnati research is valuable in identifying specific risk factors as well as protective factors tied to age and gender. The results of the study highlight areas where prevention efforts could be most effective. Boys are more at risk than girls. Children whose parents fail to talk with their kids about prescription drug risks are at an increased risk.

The strongest prevention against abuse is healthy parent and peer relationships where an anti-drug use attitude is made plain. The University of Cincinnati study findings appeared in the May 2013 issue of the Journal of Primary Prevention.

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