Nearly 19 percent of teens report that they have intentionally used prescription drugs to get high and one in 10 teens report abusing cough medicine to get high. Because medications, unlike illicit drugs, are considered safe when taken as directed, many youths and their parents don't see their use as dangerous. Because these medications are available, and not against the law, parents and youths have a false sense of security. Many view their use as safer than the use of illicit drugs.
Some of the reasons for the increase in use of prescription and over-the-counter medications are because they are heavily advertised on television and on the Internet. The advertising done does not warn of the adverse effects one may experience if they misuse or abuse the medication. These medications are easy to get; some medications can be ordered through online pharmacies that don't always require a valid prescription, they are taken from the medicine cabinet at home, or purchased from their friends.
Some of the most commonly abused prescription or over the counter drugs fall into one of the four following categories:
Opiods - Often used to treat pain - examples would be morphine, codeine or oxycodone.
Central nervous system depressants - Used for sleep disorders or anxiety - examples would be Xanax or Valium.
Stimulants - examples would be Adderall and Ritalin.
Dextromethorphan often abbreviated (DXM) - common ingredient in cough syrups.
Parents are still their child's biggest influence so make sure that you are always modeling good behavior when it comes to using medications of all types. Talk to your children about how to safely use both over-the- counter medications and prescription medications.
At the preschool age, your child is old enough to understand if you don't follow the directions for taking medication it can be dangerous. They are old enough to understand that if they don't know what something is, they shouldn't put it in their mouth and that they shouldn't take something from someone they don't know.
In kindergarten through third grade, your child is being exposed to things outside of your home. It's important to let them know that it is OK to take an over the counter medication or prescription if someone is sick or hurt as long as it's taken as directed. Use teachable moments such as when you are taking medicine to talk about how to use it and how to be safe with it. Repeat the message that medicine can only be given to your child by a caregiver such as Mom, Dad, a grandparent or a school nurse. Help your child understand that when they don't feel well that medicine isn't always necessary; sometimes lying down or eating something can help with a headache or stomach ache. Explain to your child what alcohol, tobacco and illicit drugs are and admire your child's behaviors when they are taking good care of their bodies. Medicines should be stored out of the reach of children.
For more information please contact the Prevention Department at Community and Family Resources, 509 Division Street, Webster City, IA 50595
Shelly Lumsden, MPH, CPS, is prevention coordinator at Community and Family Resources.