Beware! Misuse of Prescription Medications by Your Children
By Jayne Gottschalk, LMFT
I recently sat in session with a mother whose husband was suffering from a rare form of bone cancer. He was in terrible pain and on a cocktail of several powerful pain medications. This same woman had a 16 year old daughter and 19 year old son. I asked her if she kept the medicines “safe” specifically if she locked them up. She was incredulous and seemed a bit irritated that I would suggest that her children would take any drugs. She was adamant that “her children” would never do such a thing. Her daughter was a good student and played sports and her son was on the honor roll. I agreed that it wasn’t likely but quoted the tired adage “better safe than sorry.” She looked at me as if I had three heads.
Several sessions later it became apparent that someone in this patient’s household was stealing pills as the pill count was consistently off. They never found out who was stealing the medications but they quickly realized that a house filled with teenagers was no place to have powerful pain medications lying around. Once aware my patient realized that someone had been stealing the medication for sometime but nobody had noticed because no one was paying close attention.
My patient was shocked. She honestly never thought anyone – her children or her children’s friends --would do such a thing.
She’s not alone. I’m sure many of us would feel the same way about our children or our children’s friends, but here are the unbelievable facts as reported in The New York Times on 1/25/13 “Painkillers now take the lives of more Americans than heroin and cocaine combined, and since 2008, drug induced deaths in the United States have outstripped those from traffic accidents.”
More people are addicted to pain medication than ever before. The National Education Association in Washington, D.C. says “ By their senior year in high school, one in five teenagers will have abused painkillers. Nine percent will have abused sedatives and tranquilizers and another 10 percent will have misused or abused ADHD medication.
Most of the prescription drugs abused by teens come from the family medicine chest or from friends
What’s also frightening is “4 out of 10 teens believe that getting high on prescription medications is not dangerous because they are doctor prescribed” as reported by drugfreeNH.org
The statistics are frighteningly real.
Safe Kids Worldwide tells us that “about 165 kids – or roughly four school busloads of children – are seen in emergency rooms after getting into medications every day in the US.
So how do we keep our children safe at a time when there are more medications in the home than ever before?
1) Safeguard your medications preferably in a locked cabinet.
2) Closely monitor your pill count and dispose of medications properly.
3) Talk to your kids about the dangers of abusing prescription drugs – remind them that it’s illegal
4) Keep control of the bottles if your child takes prescription medications
Don’t make the same mistake my patient made – if you have children in the home and medications around – safeguard your children NOW by following points 1 to 4 above because it is better to be” safe than sorry” in today’s world of abundant prescription drugs.