If you have teenagers, you probably worry about them taking illegal drugs. You’ve probably put safeguards in place to prevent your children from coming into contact with any kind of illicit substances. But, there is danger lurking in your bathroom cabinets, as more and more teens are getting hooked on common prescription medications.
This disturbing news has emerged from a survey done by the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, who say that 20% of 12-18-year-olds have taken prescription medicine at least once in order to get high. Additionally, information from the Pediatric Death Review Committee Report has said that Canada has one of the worst rates of teen death from medication abuse, and that prescription medication abuse is now threatening to eclipse illegal drug use. Specifically, “Trend Analysis of Paediatric Drug Toxicity Deaths in Ontario from 2008-2010” by Veronika Peycheva and Karen Bridgman-Acker says that 75% of the drug-related teen deaths in the period studied were due to prescription drugs. This is a worrying upward trend, going from 67% in 2008 to 83% in 2010.
What can we do to protect our kids? Well, knowledge is everything and the first step is to understand that we need to educate our children about the dangers of prescription drugs, alongside illegal drugs like heroin and cocaine. Some of the teenagers surveyed felt that “borrowing” prescription drugs was okay because they were legal. But, legal doesn’t mean safe, and the message needs to go out that prescription meds are not safe if they’re taken by anyone other than the person they were intended for. Or, and this is crucial, in any quantity other than what’s prescribed.
After all, many of these prescription meds are related to the illegal drugs that so many teenagers would steer clear of. Take morphine, for example, which is prescribed for severe pain - it’s an effective painkiller because of its opiate properties. And what is closely related to morphine? Heroin, also known as morphine diacetate. It’s not surprising that teenagers are getting high from these drugs, but what is surprising is the general level of ignorance among teens about how dangerous these drugs are.
And it’s not just painkillers – teenagers are also taking stimulants, anti-depressants and sleeping pills, all for a quick buzz. Basically, anything in your drugs cabinet that’s not toothpaste or a band-aid could potentially be abused. There needs to be clear communication between parents and teenagers about just how lethal these drugs can be. It also might be worth investing in a secure drug storage solution, which come with a combination lock. As the makers of one of these products points out, “70% of children who abuse prescription drugs get them from friends and family.” It also prevents younger children from accidentally taking the drugs.
The most important thing is to talk to your kids. Look out for sudden changes in behaviour that might suggest a drug problem, and tell them if you have any concerns. It’s a tricky subject to bring up, but having a slightly awkward conversation with your teen about the dangers of prescription meds is much better than the other possible outcome…
Until next time,
Peace, love and vitamin C!
Jennifer Pretty began her career as the director of artist development for a well-known Canadian music label. Branching out on her own, she then started her own PR business “Pretty Media Management” planning and hosting various charity, entertainment and fashion events. As a dance and fitness class enthusiast Jennifer is a firm believer in the benefits of a healthy, active lifestyle. She also loves to cook, travel, spend time with family and friends and most importantly living life to the fullest!