Prescription Drug Abuse Soars Among Teens

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The use of prescription painkillers has solved challenging chronic pain problems among those with serious health conditions. Patients with cancer or other painful diseases often find that a prescription painkiller can significantly improve their quality of life.

However, the misuse of painkillers is resulting in overdose and dangerous combinations with other drugs. In addition, many individuals become addicted to the drugs, without fully understanding the medication that they are using.

While some cases of addiction begin as legitimate pain issues, some are due to purposeful misuse. Those who wanted to use drugs historically had to locate a dealer or a friend with connections. Now an illegal drug is as close as a parent’s unlocked medicine cabinet or Grandma’s unguarded purse.

The epidemic is particularly troubling when it comes to the teens who are persuaded to try getting a high with prescription drugs. CBS News recently reported that deaths involving drug overdose were up for the 11th year in a row, reflecting a total of 38,329 overdose deaths in the United States. Approximately 60 percent of the deaths involved prescription drugs.

Experts also caution that parents should not rest easy if they have their child placed in a private school to avoid problems like drug experimentation. Drugs, they say, are in every school, whether public or private. They are also being used in every neighborhood.

Parents need to be aware, say experts, that drugs are increasingly available to teens. Despite awareness programs and parental cautionary discussions, prescription drugs are widely available. Parents should check their own medicine cabinets, taking care to weed out medications that are not being used and closely monitor those that are current.

Parents should also invest in a locking case for medications, and place them in a location that is not conducive to secrecy.

In addition, parents need to talk to their kids about the dangers of using prescription painkillers, noting not only side effects but also the strong likelihood of developing an addiction.

Conversations about the risk of using drugs should also address the common misperception that because prescription drugs come from the pen of a doctor, they must be safe for use. Teens are often unaware of the dangers of mixing drugs. A common trend among teens is the “pharm party,” in which attendees bring medications found in their home medicine cabinet and the drugs are traded and mixed for experimentation.

Discussions with a teen should also address the role of peer pressure in the decision to take drugs. Teens may seek acceptance in any form and parents should look for signs that their teen is experiencing low self-esteem.

Despite the prevalence of prescription drug abuse among teenagers, parents should not discount the impact that an open parent-child dialogue about drugs can have on their children. Studies show that conversations with parents about drugs act as a protection from experimentation for teens.

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