Did you know that more than 50% of prescription drug abusers 12 and older obtained those prescription drugs from family and friends for free? Further, the number of children under five seen in emergency rooms for medication poisoning related to prescription drug self-exposure has increased dramatically. The holidays bring numerous gatherings and parties, as well as opportunities for guests to acquire medications that are not theirs, including prescription drugs in your home medicine cabinet.
RX Drug Abuse
When reading the newspaper and watching the news, I have seen more people get addicted to RX drugs than ever before. Not only is there a need to be aware of keeping these RX drugs out of reach of young children who accidentally take these medications, but it is vitally important to keep these medicines up and out of reach of teens who are becoming more curious about RX drugs as a means to feel a high. Since I am on a mission to bring more awareness to these sensitive, but important topics, this New Year, I had a brief interview with Dr. Catizone and am sharing his reply below.
What is your best tip on how families can keep prescription drugs out of reach during holiday family gatherings?
Safe storage. Make sure that your family’s medications are located in a spot only accessible to adults. Medicine safes or locking cupboards are examples of ideal places to store prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications. If you don’t have access to a locked location, a high shelf in a linen closet is great storage option. Avoid typical medication storage locations, like the bathroom medicine cabinet. Not only can a warm, moist bathroom degrade medication and decrease its effectiveness, but this is one of the first places that a person will look for prescription medications.
The purses or luggage of visiting guests can be another source of accidental or intentional misuse of prescription drugs. Ask guests to place their medications in your medicine safe or another secure location during their stay. Keep an inventory of all prescriptions to ensure that no pills have gone missing.
Have you found certain types/forms of prescription drugs to be more popular to children/teenagers than adults?
The 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health study by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found that more than 50% of prescription drug abusers obtain the drugs from family or friends, so it would seem that the most popular prescription drugs for children/teenagers are the ones that they have access to on a regular basis. Attention deficit / hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) drugs are in the hands of fellow students and opioids / pain relievers are commonly found in households, making these types of drugs relatively easy for teens to obtain.
Teens seem to consider the misuse of prescription drugs meant for the management of ADHD a great way to stay focused. A 2012 University of Michigan Monitoring the Future Teen Drug Use study found that these “study drugs,” such as Ritalin®, Adderall®, Concerta®, and Vyvanse® are used by 10% of high school sophomores and 12% of high school seniors who have not been prescribed to use these medications.
Less than 36% of eighth-graders see the occasional recreational use of Vicodin® or OxyContin® as a great risk, according to the 2012 Monitoring the Future Teen Drug Use study. This means that almost 60% of eighth-graders do not see the misuse of prescription painkillers as dangerous behavior. This is quite startling information, since these opioids can cause major damage when used incorrectly by an unintended recipient.
Any tips on how to talk to your child about prescription drugs and the dangers involved?
Your children may surprise you by their willingness to listen. Focus on educating them about the dangers of misuse, instead of accusing him or her of abuse. It is important that children understand that prescription drugs are just as dangerous as illicit street drugs, such as cocaine or heroin. Prescription abuse can cause permanent injuries or death. Teens may think that prescription drugs are safe because they are prescribed by a doctor. So let all of your children know that prescription drugs are meant to treat a particular person for specific symptoms; their use by unintended individuals can have dire consequences.
If your child takes a controlled substance, like an ADHD medication, make sure that he or she takes the correct dose every day. Remind them that taking their own medication incorrectly can lead to a drug overdose or liver failure. Warn your children against giving their medication away to peers because this could lead to serious injuries as well.
Teens tend to abuse prescription drugs to deal with problems, manage their lives, lower stress, enhance their performance, or get high. Speak with your child as often as you can about what is going in his or her life to determine if he or she is at risk for prescription drug abuse. Even if your child may not appear to be at risk, education is essential in preventing any exploration into prescription misuse and abuse.
Do you have a message I could share with my readers, who are predominately parents/grandparents, that may help alleviate their fears prescription drugs being accessible to children?
Education is so effective that the 2008 Partnership Attitude Tracking Study (PATS) by The Partnership at Drugfree.org found that teens who are taught about the dangers of prescription drug abuse at home are 50% less likely to misuse or abuse medications!
The 2012 PATS results released by The Partnership at Drugfree.org and MetLife Foundation showed that only 16% of parents discuss prescription drug abuse with their children, compared to 81% of parents who discuss marijuana dangers and 80% of parents who discuss the dangers of alcohol. Make it known that prescription drug abuse can have the same serious consequences as marijuana and alcohol.
In addition to the safe storage of prescription medication and educating children or grandchildren about drug abuse, set up a procedure for safe medication disposal. Disposing of unwanted, expired, or unused medication in a timely fashion can prevent prescription drug misuse and abuse. Law enforcement agencies, civic centers, and pharmacies are examples of locations that accept prescription drugs and unwanted medications. To find a location in your area, visit the Drug Disposal Sites locator tool on the AWARXE® Prescription Drug Safety Program website. If there is not a medication disposal site in your area, look for local and Food and Drug Administration guidelines referring to home medicine disposal to protect your family and the environment.
About Dr. Catizon
Carmen A. Catizone, MS, RPh, DPh, is the executive director of the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy® (NABP®) and the secretary of the Association’s Executive Committee. He currently serves as a governor of the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) Board of Directors and chair of the PTCB Certification Council. He is a past president of the National Pharmacy Manpower Project and the National Conference of Pharmaceutical Organizations as well as a past member of the United States Pharmacopeia Board of Directors. He has also acted as a reviewer on several advisory boards and has provided expert witness testimony and consultation in the areas of pharmacy practice and regulation.
- 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/2k12MH_Findings/2k12MH_Findings/NSDUHmhfr2012.pdf
- 2012 Monitoring the Future Teen Drug Use: drugabuse.gov/related-topics/trends-statistics/infographics/monitoring-future-2012-survey-results
- 2008 Partnership Attitude Tracking Study: drugfree.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/Full-Report-FINAL-PATS-Teens-2008_updated.pdf
- 2012 Partnership Attitude Tracking Study: drugfree.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/PATS-2012-KEY-FINDINGS1.pdf
- AWARXE Drug Disposal Sites: AWARErx.org/disposal-sites
- AWARXE Students: AWARErx.org/students