If you think only homes with young children need to be concerned about locking up their medications, you are wrong. While it is essential to lock them up if you have young children, this is not the group at the highest risk: the group most likely to misuse and abuse your prescription and over the counter (OTC) medications is teenagers.
Drugs in medicine cabinets are an easy source
Even if you cannot conceive of your own child stealing from your medicine cabinet or lifting from your briefcase, think about their friends. Prescription drugs are the number one choice for drugs of abuse among 12–13 year olds. One in seven teens admits to abusing prescription drugs to get high in the past year and a staggering 70 percent of this group gets their prescription drugs from friends and family. Only 4.7 percent go to a stranger, drug dealer or the Internet.
Prescription drug abuse has reached epidemic proportions. If your child is talking about skittles, they are not talking about that colorful sugar coated candy. Instead, it means that prescription drugs grabbed from somewhere will be put in a pile, and each friend will try a handful. Kibbles is not dog food, it’s that commonly available drug Ritalin. Pancakes and syrup refers to combining a sedative with cough syrup.
Adolescents seem to believe that medications prescribed by a doctor or available OTC are a “medically” safe high. But this is just one of the tragic myths that prevail and their relatively low cost and easy availability contribute to these sobering statistics:
- 2.1 million teens abused prescription drugs in 2006
- 3.1 million teens abused OTC cough medications to get high at least once
- 2 in 5 believe that prescription drugs are “much safer” than illegal drugs
- 3 in 10 believe that prescription pain relievers are not addictive
- Sixty percent of teens who abused prescription pain relievers did so before the age of 15
According to the Center for Disease Control, prescription drugs, including opioids and antidepressants, are responsible for more overdose deaths than “street drugs” such as cocaine, heroin, and amphetamines. And while data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) shows there has been a marked decrease in the use of some illegal drugs, the same survey also shows that prescription drug abuse is the nation's fastest-growing drug problem.
Locking up medications is the best prevention
This is why fully supports the efforts of the National Family Partnership and Lock Up Your Meds Day on Oct. 27. Go to their website and you will find fact sheets, kits to take to school and guidelines to help you determine if your child is abusing. You can also download an inventory card to take stock of all prescription and OTC medications in your house, as well as information about how best to lock them up.
Be sure to dispose of unused and expired medications to keep them from falling into the wrong hands, but don’t pour down the sink or flush in the toilet as this can cause environmental harm. Instead, go to the Any local pharmacy can also take back unused or expired medications.
Your nightstand, medicine cabinet, briefcase, pocketbook, glove compartment or kitchen counter may be serving as the personal drug dealer for you child and their friends. The consequences of not dealing with this epidemic are heartbeaking. Each parent must take responsibility and lock up or monitor all medications. The best way to end addiction and all of its ensuing problems is to keep it from starting in the first place.
Lilit Karayan, Doctor of Pharmacy
Silver Hill Hospital
Silver Hill Hospital’s blog is intended only to provide information; it is not intended to provide diagnosis or treatment. If this is an emergency, please call 911.