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Helping Your Teen Struggling With a Prescription Drug Addiction

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The National Institute on Drug Addiction (NIDA) reported in 2010 that eight percent of all teenagers were abusing prescription drugs. That number has only grown in the two years since. One way we know that the problem is still serious is that the number of admissions into rehab facilities for prescription drug abuse continues to climb. Today nearly 40 percent of teen rehab admissions are for prescription drug abuse.

According to NIDA, the most abused prescriptions are for painkillers (like OxyContin), tranquilizers (like Xanax) and stimulants (such as Adderall). One reason the problem is so intransigent is the huge amount of these medications floating around. These drugs are in many homes, are being taken by many parents and family members and are readily available.

There are signs a parent can watch for to alert them to prescription drug abuse. If teens seem chronically fatigued it could be a sign that they are using sedatives or painkillers. Teens that seem abnormally manic in their behavior may be using stimulants. Other changes associated with drug abuse include changes in schoolwork, activities and friendships.

Parents can take the following suggestions as a guideline for avoiding prescription drug abuse by their teen:

1. Don’t assume that only other people’s kids will do it.

Prescription drugs are easy to get and kids are less hesitant about using them than they would be about illegal drugs. Because the drugs are prescribed by physicians kids may wrongly assume they are somehow safer. Accessibility and reduced stigma mean that these drugs are more appealing to a larger number of teens.

2. Don’t avoid the drug conversation.

Parents of teens do have influence even though they often feel as though they do not. Studies reveal that kids are listening to mom and dad. One study found that even a one point rise in the degree of parental oversight corresponded to a 10 to 14 percent drop in alcohol and drug use. On the other hand, each one point rise in parental acceptance of marijuana corresponded to a 33 percent rise in use.

3. Don’t remain ignorant about the problem.

Get information about what drugs teens are currently using. Know the drug names as well as the street names and the dangers associated with the drugs. As an informed parent, kids will be more likely to discuss the issue with you. Parents can learn about the drugs through websites like NIDA which has a special section devoted to teen drug use.

4. Don’t be afraid to demand accountability.

Parents need to be willing to ask the tough questions when kids leave home. Where are you going? Who will you be with? Will the parents be present? It is not asking too much and can make the difference between a good situation and a risky one. Parents also need to be ready to check out their teens’ story by asking parents and friends to verify.

5. Don’t ignore changes.

Teens who are abusing prescription drugs will show signs. Don’t make excuses for changes that you observe. If you observe changes in your teen’s personal hygiene, sleeping pattern, school performance, interest in outside activities or the friends they hang around with, these could be signs of drug use.

6. Don’t be casual about the presence of drugs in your home.

Prevention is better than cure. Be responsible about the drugs in your own medicine cabinet. Keep track of how many pills are in bottles, know what drugs are there and do your best to keep them locked up and unavailable.

Lastly, don’t be afraid to ask for help if you think your teen has a problem. Pride and fear are not helpful. Be willing to talk to the doctor about your concerns. The sooner you intervene the better the ultimate outcome for your child.

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