January 26-30 is National Drug Fact Week in the US. So why should you care? Studies show that youth listen when you speak. They may not show great listening skills, or sit down quietly beside you while you talk, but they do listen and they do watch your behavior.
Across the nation, and here in Indiana, abuse of prescription medications by middle school, high school and college age students is increasing. Prescription medications are the drug-of-choice for 12 and 13 year-olds, abused more commonly than any other drug. Youth often perceive pain medications such as hydrocodone, fentanyl, or oxycodone to be less dangerous than other narcotic drugs like heroin or opium. Unfortunately, the effect on the brain is the same regardless of whether the narcotic is a prescription with specific instructions to follow, or purchased off the street.
Four in ten teens report that the prescription medication they used came from their parents’ medicine cabinet. Parents can reduce access to prescription medication by monitoring and securing their prescription medications and disposing of any expired or unused medications.
SAMSHA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration) reports that talking to children about the dangers of prescription drug abuse and misuse goes a long way. Teens that had learned “a lot” or “a little” from their parents or grandparents about prescription medications were up to 42% less likely to abuse prescription drugs than teens that reported learning “nothing.” Family meals can be a perfect time to start that conversation about drug abuse. Hints for starting the conversation (and making it a conversation and not a lecture!) can be found here.
Director of Curriculum & Education and Mother of Six