Prescription drug abuse in teens on the rise | Patti Skelton-McGougan | Parenting Lifeline

As parents, we know the dangers illegal drugs pose to our kids, but few of us recognize some of the biggest dangers are actually legal substance found in many of our own homes.

In the past year, abuse of prescription medications, in particular painkillers, has become one of the nation's most prevalent illegal drug problem — ranked second only behind marijuana.

And in King County, a recent report found prescription drugs were involved in the majority of overdose deaths — including those in kids.

What many don’t realize is that kids often get these drugs right from the medicine cabinets in their home. Others may take it from the medicine cabinets of friend’s or extended family member’s homes.

As parents, we can take steps to protect our kids. The first is talking to them about the dangers of medications. Even cough syrup can be dangerous when misused.

Second, if anyone in your family takes medication for ADD, pain or anxiety, be sure to keep close tabs on the number of pills remaining and lock-up the medication between doses. If it’s for a teen, provide only the necessary dosage, rather than giving them the whole bottle. Drugs used to treat these issues are commonly abused.

And when the medication is no longer needed, dispose of it. Many local drug stores will take back unused medications.

Drug addiction usually begins with experimentation — and sometimes that starts with prescription medication — especially painkillers.

Due to tighter regulations, prescription painkillers such as Vicodin or Oxycontin have become more expensive to purchase on the street, as much as $80 per pill. As a result, teens who begin abuse of prescriptions drugs are more likely to turn to heroin — a cheaper and more readily available high.

Because heroin can now be smoked rather than injected, it’s less scary to a teen. And the high mimics that of the prescription opiates/painkillers. However, heroin is even more addictive. At YES, we are seeing more kids who are using heroin.

Take the dangers of your prescription medications seriously. And remember it’s not just your child you need to be concerned with, but those who visit your home as well.

Patti Skelton-McGougan is executive director of Youth Eastside Services. For more information, call 425-747-4937 or go to www.youtheastsideservices.org.

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