Back in the "good old days," it seemed that parents worried more about their teenagers taking illegal or "street" drugs, such as marijuana, cocaine, heroin, or similar drugs than they did about their teenagers taking prescription or "legal" drugs. The danger of teenagers taking illegal drugs still exists; unfortunately, the incidences of teenagers taking and abusing prescription drugs are rising.
How Is Teen Prescription Medication Abuse Happening?
Prescription drug abuse among teenagers can start with experimentation, just as illicit drug use can. A family member, relative, or friend has obtained the drug through a legal prescription, but through illicit methods (stealing, buying, or otherwise obtaining from another person), access to the drug occurs, and the drug is offered to other teenagers.
Sometimes, however, prescription drugs are legally given to teenagers, for necessary medical purposes. The teenager for whom the drug is intended continues to take the drug even after it is no longer needed, and abuse or addiction occurs.
How Can I Keep My Teen From Abusing Prescription Medications?
Some of the same methods that can be utilized to keep your teenager from abusing or becoming addicted to illicit drugs can apply to making sure this doesn't happen with prescription drugs. These include, but are by no means limited to, the following:
- Make as much effort as possible to know where your teenager is, who your teenager is with, and what your teenager is doing.
- Ask your teenager if anyone with whom he has association abuses or is addicted to illicit or prescription drugs. If your teenager won't tell you, but you suspect this may be the case, try your hardest to find out for yourself. If your suspicions are proven to be correct, you may want to consider not allowing your teenager to associate with these persons, or only allowing association under tightly controlled circumstances, such as only when you are present.
- Set ground rules for your teen's behavior both at home and when he is away from you, and explains the consequences for disobedience. Make sure the rules include that your teenager must immediately leave a situation where illicit drug use of any kind (including drinking) is occurring. If it is necessary to call you for a ride, that should be done. Then, follow through with the consequences if rules are broken.
These and other methods can help with those times when your teenager may not be with you. However, often, a teenager's first "introduction" to prescription drugs that can be abused occurs at home. You can prevent, or at least greatly reduce the chances of this happening, by:
- Setting the right example yourself. Take prescription drugs exactly as they are prescribed. This is especially important if you take prescription drugs that have the tendency for abuse on a daily basis. If you don't abuse them, the chances are better than your teenager won't, either.
- Keeping up with how much medication you have. Count your pills or capsules often, and make sure the amount present equals the frequency and duration for which they were prescribed. Do this for yourself as well as other family members who take prescription drugs. Let your teenager see you doing this. If he is aware that you are being diligent in keeping up with your prescription, he may be less tempted to take the supply in the house.
- If your teenager is prescribed a drug that has the propensity for abuse or addiction, even though he may tell you he is a "big boy" and can take his own medicine, you be the one to literally give him the exact amount and only when it's time. Between doses, keep the pills with you (literally on your person if necessary) or in a place that would make it very hard for him to get to them.
What If, After All My Efforts, It Does Happen? What Can I Do Then?
Get help for your teenager as soon as possible. Find a treatment facility that specializes in prescription drug abuse and has programs specifically geared to adolescents. Continue to offer support during the treatment process and after your teenager finishes the program. However, you will need to increase your diligence to ensure that relapse does not occur.
If the abuse occurred as a result of someone else supplying your teen with the prescription drug, and he did not get access to it from your home, get your local law enforcement agency involved. This may be the last thing you want to do, but it may be the only way you can ensure that it does not happen again.