Will Hiding Mom & Dad's Meds Keep Teens' Hands off Them?
Covering the pediatric intensive care unit as an AHN, I have seen teens in critical condition due to ingesting prescription meds. Most recently, a shining high school valedictorian will never see his next phase of life. His bright future was suddenly brought to a screeching halt when he decided to go to a "pharma party."
Now, he's barely hanging on, and motionless in a coma.
If you haven't heard about "pharma parties" I'll update you on the lingo. Teens think prescription meds are safe because they are prescriptions. These teens will get their hands on any prescription meds they can find in their house (yes, right inside the medicine cabinet). They all get together for a "party", bring the meds they have, put them them in a bowl and ingest them; like candy. They can ingest blood pressure medications, pain pills etc. They think this is safe but can be deadly.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, defines "pharming" as "swapping prescription and/or over-the-counter medications and taking them all at once, often with alcohol, to get high -- has become a popular and dangerous trend among teens."
Prescription drug abuse among teens doesn't discriminate
"Every day, 2,500 kids age 12 to 17 abuse a prescription painkiller for the first time, and more people are getting addicted to prescription drugs," according to the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration.
Protecting kids when they're young
Remember when your kids were toddlers? They were like little Magellans and Houdinis. Somehow they were able to discover and reach things you were sure they couldn't. In the blink of an eye they could get their hands on things that could have harmed them.
You believed that when your kids got older they would be able to make good choices and protect themselves. You thought all your hard work when they were young would pay off and you could allow them more freedom by the time they were teens.
And yet many thousands of teens are abusing prescription drugs without their parents' knowledge, often by sneaking them out of the medicine cabinet.
According to federal officials, teens are getting these prescription drugs from home, friends, family and online pharmacies.
Do you know the most commonly abused Rx drugs by teens?
If you answered OxyContin and Vicodin you are correct. These drugs are both opioids, and they are prescribed pain relievers.
According to the National Institutes of Health-National Institute on Drug Abuse, other commonly abused drugs include:
* Stimulants such as Ritalin, Adderall, and Concerta
* CNS depressants such as Valium, Librium, and Xanax
* Over-the-counter medications, such as certain cough suppressants containing dextromethorphan (DXM)
Why are kids abusing Rx drugs?
According to Teens and Prescription Drugs - An Analysis of Recent Trends on the Emerging Drug Threat from the Office of National Drug Control Policy, teens abuse prescription drugs because they believe prescription drugs will give them medically safe high.
Dangers of Rx Drugs
Opioids can produce drowsiness, constipation, and, can depress breathing. Taking a large single dose could cause severe respiratory depression or death.
Preventing Teen Rx Abuse: Keep Out of Reach of Teens
So what do you do?
As much as you may trust your kids, parents need to be aware of the potential dangers and keep prescription drugs out of teens' reach.
Maybe we need to supplement the "Keep out of Reach of Children" label with one that says "Keep out of Reach of Teens."
- Talk with your kids. I don't mean wait to your kids are teens and say, "Don't do drugs." I mean even before your kids are little toddlers, exploring the world, engage and attach yourself with them so as they get older you won't be at a loss for words. The communication and conversations become so natural that you'll be able to bounce things off each other. You'll always be the parent and role model, but get on their level so you can simply talk to your kids. Talk always and often.
- Know your kids' friends. It's really important to know who your kids hang out with.
- Get to know your kids' friends' parents too.
- Encourage them to be involved in activities that they love, such as sports, clubs and hobbies.
So while hiding your prescription meds and keeping them out of your teens' reach is a good step, keep a keen eye on your teens and never stop talking.
Follow Barbara Ficarra, RN, BSN, MPA on Twitter: www.twitter.com/barbaraficarra