There is a growing epidemic in America that is taking the lives of our young people. It's in most of our homes and it can easily be obtained from a friend or doctor. Prescription drug abuse is real problem among teens and young adults that gets bigger every year.
According to an alarming report by the Centers for Disease Control, prescription drug abuse takes the life of one person every 19 minutes. In teens and young adults, fatality rates are only increasing. Between 2000-2009, deaths for poisoning in teens raised an alarming 91 percent due to prescribed medication.
These aren't drugs that kids are buying on the street corners. About 70 percent of prescriptions drugs kids take are from their own homes.
Just take a minute to think about how many over the counter medications you have. One from a tooth ache you had two months ago or a bottle of pills you have to take the edge off a particular stressful week -- they're all there in open season for a child to experiment with right now.
Abuse can also start from medication from a prescription for a child's sports injury or a perceived attention problem.
In our over-medicated society, kids are given medication every day to manage discomfort, anxiety and other behavioral disorders. But the truth is we set them up for failure.
From an early age, kids are pressured to meet unrealistic goals whether it is for academic achievement or sports recognition. This obsession with success leaves many parents too ready to give their children pills to cover up minor problems that are more of environmental issues than physical.
Now, that is not to say we all shouldn't strive to succeed, but the destructive circle of forcing children to perform and medicating them when they don't measure up to preconceived standards can set them on the path for substance abuse.
A DrugFree.org study out earlier this spring showed that one in six parents thought that using prescription drugs to get high was safer than street drugs. That line of thinking is dead wrong. A Yale School of Medicine study found that teens who use marijuana between the ages of 12-17 were two times more likely to turn to prescription pills for their fix. It is because of these findings that many researchers argue that early intervention is key to stamping out drug abuse.
The solution to stamping out the plague of prescription drug abuse starts with education. Eighty-one percent of parents reported that they have spoken about the dangers of using marijuana with their children, but only 14 percent said they were ever told of the risks of misusing prescriptions, as found by a DrugFree.org study.
Together with schools, parents need to recognize the accessibility of these drugs to young people and teach them the dangers from an early age. Families also need to be engaged with their children and willing to be parents. When children display behavioral issues, it often isn't just an independent issue and the entire family must be treated or else it is just putting a band aid on the real problem.
A pill isn't always the answer. We have to look at the enablers of this epidemic -- the doctors, families and our culture -- and become more proactive about changing our behavior. Much like the root of this problem, a lot of this starts at home.
Need help with substance abuse or mental health issues? In the U.S., call 800-662-HELP (4357) for the SAMHSA National Helpline.