How To Protect Kids From Prescription Drug Abuse

Prescription drug abuse among kids has become one of the common problems that parents are currently facing. Thousands of families are affected by this kind of abuse each year, which has led to illegal drug use, frequent emergency room visits, overdose deaths and an increase in the number of crimes related to drug use. Parents are losing their children at such an alarming rate that unless parents do something about it to prevent their children from succumbing to such abuse, then the rates would continue to increase.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), majority of prescription drugs that are abused come from homes. This means that the children have easier access to these prescription drugs in which their parents are taking. Unknowingly, parents would just let these prescription drugs stay inside their medicine cabinets without any fear or doubt that their children would ever think of using them.

Statistics on Prescription Drug Abuse

prescription drug abuse kids

Prescription drugs have been developed with the intention of helping people who are in need of treatment for their medical conditions. Unfortunately, along with the good comes the bad; these prescription drugs, which are potent when used inappropriately, may cause more harm than good. Nevertheless, when these drugs are used accordingly, it is safe. However, with improper storage and disposal practices, this increases the risk of leading to drug abuse, accidental poisoning and environmental harm.

The amount of drugs that a person takes determines its effect – small doses act as a stimulant while large doses act as a sedative. Massive doses can actually kill a person in a matter of minutes.

Listed below are statistics regarding prescription drug abuse:

  • Unintentional drug overdose from prescription drug abuse causes one American to die every 15 minutes.
  • 70% of those engaged in prescription drug abuse get them from family or friends.
  • In 2010, there were more than 22,000 overdose deaths involving prescription medications.
  • Surprisingly, there are more deaths recorded from prescription drug abuse than inhalants, cocaine, heroin, and hallucinogen combined.
  • In 2011, an average of 13 prescriptions for every person in America has been given by physicians.
  • The cost of prescription opioids reached $78.5B in 2013.
  • At least 2,500 youths abuse a pain reliever for the first time.
  • According to a survey, 50% of teenagers believe that it is safer to use prescription drugs than street drugs.
  • Teens who abuse prescription drugs are twice as likely to use alcohol and five times more likely to use marijuana.
  • Fentanyl, an opioid painkiller, killed more than 1,000 people in 2007.

Why are kids using drugs?

teen prescription drug abuse

The reasons why children are using drugs may differ from one another. But more often than not, drugs have become their best friend without them knowing that it has become their silent killer.

It is important for parents to understand the behavior of their children and not to ignore or underestimate the impact of stress or personal problems. Parents should always have a watchful eye over their children, especially children in their teens. In addition to being a vigilant parent is the need to provide necessary information for the children to understand why they are educated not to get involved with drugs.

Some of the reasons why kids fall for drugs are:

Used as a stress-buster

Parents may not realize that stress can also get in the way of the life of their children. Most often, we associate stress with adults who face more challenges every day. But children, too, do find themselves all stressed out because of a number of reasons: homework, new lessons to study for tests, projects, teen problems, etc.

To be part of a group

Teens, most especially, want to feel that they belong to a group. They want to fit in to avoid being made fun of by others and become a part of a “cool” group. Moreover, teens want others to see them as a worthy being; however, sometimes, with their desire to be accepted, notwithstanding the potential harm, it can drive them to engage in such hostile or dangerous behavior. One study shows that 65% of teens use drugs to help them feel better about themselves; these teens have low self-esteem and they are likely to become a part of the wrong crowd.

Used as self-medication

Teens think highly of themselves during adolescence that they feel like they do not always need to seek advice or help from their elders. Accordingly, during this stage, they undergo a transition period that makes it difficult for them to truly find themselves when their elders expect them to act like adults yet still treat them like children. Therefore, sometimes, they undergo depression without them truly knowing what is happening to them and that reaching for a drug to help cope with the symptoms has become an easier solution.

To look and feel like a grown-up

Teens want to be treated like adults as they no longer see themselves as the kids who would always be playing at the park with their mommies. They want to be given more privileges. With the thought that they are no longer kids, they start to seek for things that would make them feel like adults. Sadly, they are often caught up in their own web of unrealistic expectations that they end up doing inappropriate things such as drinking alcohol and taking drugs.

Looking up to their parents’ behavior

No one is perfect and each one of us may have some issues of our own. As adults, we sometimes act without truly thinking if it shows a positive effect towards others or not. Grabbing a drink after coming home from work may have become a habit, which is unknowingly being picked up on by children who then start to consider it normal. Consequently, kids mimic their parents’ behavior no matter if they are right or wrong; for as long as they know that their parents have done it, they think that it is always right.

Out of curiosity

Teens are naturally bold and thrill-seeking; the more that they are cautioned from doing something, all the more that they will find ways on how they can be able to experience something they were told to avoid. Trying new things is among the characteristics of teens. Being teens, they have more freedom since they are less supervised and when parents are away, they just might sneak into their parent’s room and try whatever they come across with. Unfortunately, drugs and alcohol can be among them.

As their means of rebellion

Parents and teens often collide even because of the small things. And being teens, they feel that they should be treated differently. When they do not end up coming up with a compromise and teens refuse to see things the way their parents see them, teens may turn to drugs because they know that it will infuriate their parents.

Signs of Prescription Drug Abuse or Misuse

prescription drug abuse

Parents should be aware of the different behaviors of their children, most especially if they notice anything unusual that their children may be involved with. Some of the signs that your kid might be using drugs are:

  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Mood changes – gets irritated easily, lacks interest in activities
  • Withdraws from any form of gathering
  • Decreased focus on school work
  • Missing prescription medicines
  • Changes in the relationship with other family members

Tips To Prevent Prescription Drug Abuse

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, there are about 6 million Americans who abuse prescription drugs – usually with their homes as the source of these drugs.

The most commonly abused drugs are opioids. When these are used along with other prescription medications such as muscle relaxers, stimulants or antidepressants, they can provide a cocaine-like effect.

To reduce the risk of drug use, the following should be done:

  • Always keep drugs out of reach. Medications should always be stored in a locked cabinet out of children’s reach. Some small children can accidentally swallow these drugs which can lead them to dangerous situations such as increased heart rate, decreased respiration or even death.
  • Keep a list of all your medications. Always make an inventory of all your medications, whether they are prescription drugs or over-the-counter medications. Make it a habit to track down the medications that you are taking. Count the medications remaining in the container and ensure that it’s the correct amount. About 64% of kids aged between 12 and 17 years old were discovered to have abused pain relievers. According to them, they acquired the drugs from their own homes or from their friends without their parents’ knowledge.
  • Properly dispose of unused medications. It is unsafe to just throw them in the garbage bin because there might be others who would see them and use them. Instead, take it out from its original container and mix it with sawdust or used coffee grounds and place it inside a sealed bag that can be disposed of in the trash. You can also inquire from the DEA for any drop-off areas or takeback initiatives where these unused medications can be brought for proper disposal.
  • Some medications have instructions that suggest having these drugs flushed down the drain. Examples of these medications are Duragesic Transdermal Patch, Avinza, Percocet, Fentora, and Oxycontin.
  • Never become too comfortable leaving potentially addictive drugs lying around. Always keep them in a locked cabinet.
  • Be vigilant during trips to visit relatives and friends, most especially when visiting the elders. They are most likely taking quite a number of medications which can be left lying around in their houses.
  • It is not advisable to keep unused medications and save it for future use. There are certain types of medications that are not supposed to be stored. Such medications can only be used with a proper prescription.
  • Never make it a habit of offering your medication to others because only a doctor can determine the kind of medication needed by a person. There are certain drugs that can produce allergic reactions to others which can lead to unfavorable circumstances. To be safe, let your friend or anyone who asked helped from you to seek for medical advice instead.
  • Even over-the-counter drugs, such as cough syrups, can become a source of addiction.
  • It is extremely important to talk to your children about the dangers of using prescription drugs. Let them know that taking medications without any doctor’s advice can be potentially lethal. Clearly, instill in their minds that the medications are not prescribed for them.
  • If there is a need for your children to take these medications during school hours, inform the school about it and work out a plan with the school nurse or principal on how the medications should be given to your child. Demand that any unused medications should be returned to you.


The safety of children should always come from the parents’ effort. This includes providing kids the knowledge about the dangers of engaging in prescription drug abuse. When children are well aware of these facts, they are less likely to use them as much the same way when parents provide quality time to be with their children.

These children are unlikely to feel the need to use drugs or alcohol when they feel that the whole family have their love and support all the time.

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