When it comes to drug and alcohol abuse, most of us firmly abide by the mantra, “Not in my house.” Not only do we prohibit the dangerous and illegal behavior under our roofs, but we also don’t think that we could ever be the parents of a child who gets involved in substance abuse.
Yesterday I had the opportunity to get together with some other bloggers and other journalists in New York City at the Not In My House awareness launch. This campaign is sponsored by Abbott Labs and the Partnership for a Drug-Free America. My eyes were opened to some habits and parenting practices that might be interfering with preventing the spread of a new drug that is gaining popularity among teens.
You may think that because your children are pre-schoolers that you don’t have to worry about this yet. To that objection, I would pose a question to you: Do you ever have teenagers in your home?
As I was learning about the abuse of prescription drugs that has been on the rise in the last five years and continues to increase, I was thinking about my daughter, who will enter Intermediate school next year, but I immediately thought about the babysitters who come into my home, and even my daughter’s friends who spend time here. Even if it’s not your child, there may be someone who comes to your home trying to obtain some of your prescribed drugs for their own illegal use.
Did you know that prescription drug abuse is the drug of choice for many kids, ages 12 – 17? One in five teens admit to taking prescription drugs that were not prescribed to them.
The top two reasons for this are:
- availability–over 50% of teens who reported abusing prescription medications said that they got the medications in their own home, from a relative, or friend
- perceived risk–over half of teens who tried prescription medicine believe they are safer than street drugs and there’s nothing wrong with taking them once in a while
Because they don’t perceive it as unsafe or illegal, this abuse of drugs hits all families. The “good kids” might be at an even bigger risk of “pharming,” as teens call it, because they are often taking these in response to stress: taking stimulants so that they can stay up later to study and quickly become more alert the next day; taking depressants so that they can calm down and stop worrying; and choosing prescription drugs that might give them a high on the weekends so that they can let loose and have fun.
As parents, there are things that we can control in regards to this issue. We can’t be present with our child at every party, but we can add the dangers of prescription drugs to our talking points. We probably have made a point to talk to them about drinking, smoking, and illegal drugs. They know that we don’t want them doing the illegal hard drugs, but we may have underscored their idea that prescribed drugs are safe by holding on to our prescriptions after their prescribed use is over. We may have even given them one of our prescribed pain pills to help them deal with their own maladies.
Just like we childproof our home for our babies, we need to think in terms of teen-proofing our homes as well (for our own children as well as those who come into our home). If you have prescription drugs in your home, here are some things that you can do:
- Keep them in a safe place. Any teen who has access to your bathroom cabinet has access to your drug supply. They may be getting them for their own use, or swapping or selling them to get other drugs that they want. If you have these kinds of drugs on hand keep them in a place that’s harder to detect.
- Count your pills. Know what you have on hand, and how many you have left.
- Talk to others who could be unknowing suppliers, including grandparents and the parents of your children’s friends and ask them to secure their supplies as well.
Spend a few minutes watching the video on the Not in My House site. It makes a powerful statement. Another interesting resource from the Partnership is a new extensive study meant to help parents understand why teens think and act the way they do: A Parent’s Guide to the Teen Brain.
Even more powerful than hearing the stats and hearing the experts was hearing from a real family who was affected by the abuse of prescription drugs. Gary Neal, along with his daughter Jordan, gave his personal story of his son Harrison’s death last year. It caused me to ask, “What can I do as a parent to prevent this?” and I honestly felt a little hopeless. Fortunately teen psychologist Anthony Wolf gave some excellent tips on effectively communicating with your children. Read “For Harrison” on my personal blog to find out more about my honest reactions to this story, including the tips on talking with your children that I could immediately apply to the chats on various subject I am already trying to have with nine-year-old Amanda.