By Eliza —
As a parent, I was on the lookout for the usual suspects — stranger abductions, sports injuries, childhood illness. Those seemed like potential threats to my family. But I never dreamed that chemical dependency, the disease most statistically likely to impact my family, was just a pill bottle away. In fact, that was the furthest thing from my mind because we were a good family, we were responsible parents, and, most of all, my children wouldn’t be dumb enough to “experiment.”
I don’t know why I expected them to exercise any more judgment than their peers, 85% of whom “experiment” with drugs or alcohol by the time they graduate from high school. Or why I expected them to be more restrained than I was as a teen. But the stakes are much higher now, with potentially deadly prescription medicines replacing the rare beer that I snitched from the fridge. My generation played with fireworks; teens today play with dynamite. And neither they nor their parents know it.
Parents and kids mistakenly rationalize that, “Pills are from a doctor how could that be harmful?” Yet people can become addicted to prescription pills that are legitimately prescribed and monitored by their physician. And they can die from that chemical dependency. Those pills may be pain pills, attention deficit pills, (sometimes given to help teens study and focus), anxiety reducers or sleep aids. You will probably find some of those in your medicine cabinet: the number of pain pills prescribed in the US over the last decade has quadrupled. If you don’t recognize the pills in your medicine cabinet, find out why they were prescribed in the first place. And then secure them so they can’t be abused.
“Not my child,” you say? But one in four teens has misused or abused a prescription drug at least once in their lifetime. Prescription medicines are now the most commonly abused drugs among 12 to 13 year olds. And because of the plasticity of the developing brain, the younger your teen when they have their first drink or pill, the more likely it is that they will develop a life-long problem with substance abuse.
A group of concerned moms have taken public awareness to the streets, commissioning the production of Collision Course – Teen Addiction Epidemic, a 27-minute Emmy award-winning documentary that has shown throughout the nation on public TV. Collision Course honestly depicts the progression from Oxycontin to heroin and is rated TV-14 accordingly.
So how can you reduce the chance that your child (or others) will abuse prescription medications?
- Lock up and monitor your prescription medicines to keep them from the wrong hands.
- Be aware that even properly prescribed pills can become addictive. Pay attention to pill consumption after sports surgeries or accidents.
- Talk openly and repeatedly with your children about the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse. Watch Collision Course with your kids.
- Take off the blinders. Addiction/alcoholism is an equal opportunity disease of the executive function of the brain, not a disease of will power or character. Being a good kid from a good family isn’t enough to keep you safe.
Once the disease of chemical dependency has developed, you cannot put the genie … or the pills … back in the bottle. Should you discover that chemical dependency has taken root, you can find help and support at www.ParentPathway.com. Safeguard your medicine, educate your children, and stop addiction before it starts.
About the author: Eliza blogs for www.ParentPathway.com, a website dedicated to supporting parents whose children (of any age) have become chemically dependent on drugs or alcohol.