Most parents don’t believe their child would abuse prescription drugs. That may explain the most recent findings from a University of Michigan study which found that, despite the prescription drug epidemic, parents are leaving powerful drugs readily accessible.
Researchers at the University of Michigan queried 230 teens, mostly eighth and ninth graders, came to some troubling conclusions about teen access to prescription drugs. Their study showed that nearly three quarters of those surveyed had unfettered access to the medicine they were prescribed, most of them highly addictive, which could lead to a deadly overdose. Even when teens are not taking the drugs themselves, it still becomes a simple matter to divert them for street sales.
We know that teens are misusing these medications because emergency room visits for kids under 21 are up significantly over the past decade. Worse, prescription drug overdose fatalities are up more than 90 percent among 15- to 19-year-olds. It is a deadly mistake to allow controlled substances outside of parental sight.
And yet, this study says that is precisely what is occurring. The study found that 73.7 percent of the teenagers surveyed had free and unsupervised access to the family medicine cabinet, including heavy duty prescription medications. Parents may be making this mistake because they place so much trust in their kids. What they fail to appreciate is that they have no reason to place that kind of trust in their child’s friends who may come over.
Teens with no intent to abuse, sell or give away these drugs are still in danger if mom and dad aren’t watching as sedatives, anti-anxiety medications and prescription pain killers are notoriously easy to overdose on. Some of these medications impair short-term memory, making it a simple matter to unwittingly take more pills in rapid succession with fatal results.
At the very least, doctors should be warning parents about pill safety when they write a prescription for teens. Parents themselves need to become more vigilant in guarding the drugs meant to improve quality of life, not destroy it.