When I was a young mom I believed that I could protect my children from all evil, or at least I would try. My eyes were opened when, as the editor of Mothering, I received a submission from a respected La Leche Leader whose teenage son was having trouble with drug abuse. I realized then that this could happen to anyone.
After my own children grew up, they confided in me about drug experiences they had had as teenagers that I was blissfully unaware of. Now, I wonder how much my own myopic view of perfect parenting contributed to a blindness to their experimentation.
Fortunately, my children have experimented with drugs, not abused them, but I know many “good kids” who have been abusive. The truth is that all families have problems. It’s healthy families, though, that ask for help.
Mothering is partnering with an excellent resource for helping families. The Partnership at Drugfree.org is a drug abuse prevention, intervention, treatment and recovery resource that helps parents and caregivers address alcohol and drug abuse with teens and young adults.
When we think of drug abuse, we immediately think of hard drugs like cocaine, crack and heroin—but believe it or not—more teens get high from medicines they get at home than from these hard drugs. In fact, 66% of teens that abuse prescription drugs say they get them from family and friends. Only 5% report getting these medicines on the Internet or from a drug dealer.
MEDICINE ABUSE PROJECT
The devastating reality of this is, of course, the teen deaths from overdoses of these medicines. We worry incessantly about our teens driving, but the sad truth is that the leading cause of accidental death in the US is now unintentional drug poisoning, not car crashes.
I admit to not giving a second thought about the availability of the medicines in my bathroom cabinet. I had some unused pain medication from dental work and put it in the cabinet, thinking I might want it some day. And, when I threw it away, I threw it in the trash because I didn’t know how to dispose of it properly. We all need to learn more.
To combat the tragic loss of teen lives to prescription drug abuse and to raise awareness about the seriousness of the issue, Drugfree.org will launch The Medicine Abuse Project the week of September 23 —29, 2012. Phase 1 of this project hopes to raise awareness and asks stakeholders to sign a pledge to help stop teen medicine abuse.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Take these three simple steps to safeguard your medicines and your teens:
Store Medicines Smartly. Store medicines as you would jewelry, cash or guns. Consider putting them in a locked cabinet but don’t just leave them, as I did, in the medicine chest. Put them somewhere unpredictable. It’s too much of a temptation for a young teen who wants to experiment a bit. A vulnerable teen might be tempted by bullies to check out the family medicine chest to find pain pills that could lucratively be sold on the street.
Throw Away Medicines Properly. Several efforts are underway to help us dispose properly of our prescription drugs. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has organized a National Prescription Drug Take-Back Initiative for September 29, 2012 from 10 AM to 2 PM and identified take-back locations in all 50 states and US territories. Here’s a list of take-back sites.
The American Medicine Chest Challenge calls on adults to dispose of unwanted medicines on November 13, 2012 from 10AM to 2PM and has established a list of permanent prescription disposal sites in 42 states.
If you are unable to make it to one of these sites, check out the FDA guide, “How to Dispose of Unused Medicine.” One suggestion from the guide is to take unused drugs out of their original containers and mix them with something undesirable such as coffee grounds or kitty litter before putting in the trash in a sealable bag.
While the FDA guide says “…there have been no indications of environmental effects due to flushing [drugs down the toilet],” adding drug residues into water systems is unnecessary. The agency provides a continuously revised listing of drugs recommended for flushing.
Talk to Your Kids. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, have the conversation. Don’t assume, as I did, that your kids won’t have problems. Talk to them kindly, and in the spirit of true inquiry. Tell them that you are surprised by the statistics you’re learning and want to help them with any temptations to medicine and drug abuse they might face.
And, like a healthy family, look for help. Check out the extensive resources available on the Medicine Abuse Project website:
Drug Guide (a list of 11 most commonly abused medicines and signs of drug abuse.)
And, of course, sign The Pledge to educate yourself and your family about teen medicine abuse. The Medicine Abuse Project hopes to unify families, communities, industry, health care professionals, educators, law enforcement, and public officials to save lives by curbing medicine abuse. The aim of the project is to prevent 500,000 teens from abusing medicines in the next five years. You can help by pledging to join the effort. You can begin at home. I’ve already talked to my kids and I’m on my way to clean out the medicine chest, this time the right way.