Parents and Prevention
Published: February 25, 2019 by Eric Klinger
Parents Can Prevent Addiction by Understanding Prescription Pills
Quick—how many prescription medicines are in your house right now?
Are you sure?
A recent study in the Journal of Drug Education indicated that as many as 77% of households keep at least one prescription medicine in their home that could be used for non-medical purposes. These include not only opioid-based pain medications, but also sedatives (benzodiazepines or other anxiety medications) and stimulants such as ADHD medications. All these medications have the potential for abuse, and they’re most likely to be abused by kids and adolescents.
What’s more, many of the parents surveyed in this study were not taking any particular precautions to secure medications from their children. As one parent put it, prescription drugs in their home weren’t “any more hidden than the beer in the garage.”
Avoid the Misconceptions about Prescription Medications
The misconceptions that exist about prescription medications are among the most troubling aspects of this study. Some of the parents surveyed failed to fully understand the abuse potential inherent in their own medications. They said things like, “It’s stuff that takes three or four days [to take effect]. It has a long uptake.” One parent who actually suspected her son was stealing her pills told him, “dude, this stuff won’t do you any good. It’s not gonna bring you up or down.”
In addition, many parents surveyed told their interviewers that they weren’t especially concerned about their children having access to medications because they were under the impression that expired medications no longer had any effect. As one parent put it, “It’s not going to do anything in your body if it’s expired, so what the heck.”
The fact is opioid-based prescription pain medications are, chemically speaking, almost identical to heroin. And while prescription pain medicines may lose some of their potency after their expiration date, they can still have the same effect when taken for non-medical purposes. That includes the “high” people get when they crush up and snort a pain pill — and it also includes the risk of brain damage and death that come with an overdose.
Preventing Addiction Starts with Getting Proactive!
Among parents who did take care to monitor their prescription medications, many of them said they did so because they were concerned about their children’s friends stealing them. That’s a reasonable concern. Ask people who have become addicted to opioids, and nearly three-fourths will tell you that they got started with prescription paid meds. When their prescriptions ran out, they would start stealing them right from their friends’ and family’s medicine cabinets.
Parents should consider keeping their prescription medications out of the more public areas of your house, such as the bathroom, and storing them in places where they’ll know if something’s amiss, such as a nightstand or even an underwear drawer. Keeping a good count of the number of pills you have on hand will also help you recognize when some are missing. A weekly or monthly pill organizer can make keeping track easier.
Prevention Is Everyone’s Responsibility — Including Parents!
Dispelling misconceptions and having a proactive plan for storage and monitoring of prescription medications is a great start, and it’s only the beginning! For parents to truly take an active role in preventing the spread of substance abuse, it’s important to keep a dialog happening with young people. As we’ve said before, there are countless opportunities to talk to children about the risks associated with drugs, and we encourage parents to take advantage of them.
For young people who need help with substance use issues — or with the behavioral health concerns that often lead young people to start using drugs and alcohol — Unison Health offers a wide range of treatment options. Don’t hesitate to contact us for guidance or to get started on a treatment plan that’s best suited to your young person’s needs. Call 419-214-HOPE today to get started!