Sue Scheff: Prescription Drug Abuse and Teens

Smoking marijuana is unfortunately common amongst many tweens and teens, however just behind that is the use of prescription drug use.  This is a serious problem since many homes are stocked with RX’s – and some parents are in denial that their teen would even consider taking these medications.  Be an educated parent.  Talk to your kids about the dangers of taking prescriptions that are not for them.  Check out Operation Medicine Cabinet.

Source: Connect with Kids

Sharing Prescription Drugs

They’re sort of acting as their own health care providers, and that can really be dangerous.”

– Katherine Lyon Daniel, Ph.D.

What’s the most commonly abused drug by today’s high school students? According to the National Institutes on Drug Abuse, prescription drugs rank second behind marijuana. Abuse is more than buying drugs illegally. Parents should be talking with their kids about the problems of sharing prescribed medications – something that’s more common place in school hallways than one might believe.

Kids share asthma drugs… “I might say here you go and let him borrow it,” says Jaiah Scott, 17, about sharing his inhaler.

They share prescription pain killers… “People at school do that, if they have a headache or something,” says fifteen-year-old Michelle.

Even prescription medications like Accutane… “Like your friend could be oh, you know it helped me, it could help you,” says Jennifer, 18.

Studies report that about 20% of teens have shared their prescription drugs and about one-third who borrowed the medications experienced a negative side effect. Says 17-year-old Ginny, “I think there’s a lot of sharing of medication, prescription medications. It’s kind of come to not be such a big deal.”

But experts warn otherwise. The risks include overdose, allergic reactions, interactions with other prescriptions and a number of other side effects.

“They’re sort of acting as their own health care providers, and that can really be dangerous. You want to help a friend, they have a medication problem — you’re sharing. But this is one time sharing isn’t nice,” says Katherine Lyon Daniel, Ph.D.

With the acne drug Accutane, for example, severe birth defects can result if a teen who is pregnant takes even one dose. Another alarming statistic: 40 percent of adults share their medications. Experts say that while 40 percent of teens surveyed said that they got prescription medications from a friend, 33 percent said a prescription medication came from a family member.

Since children often take their cues from adults, experts say parents should set an example. Don’t share your own drugs and make it clear to your child that sharing medication with friends is dangerous — and that taking someone else’s medicine can be dangerous for you.

“You may think you need that medication, but you’re much better off if you get a medication that’s intended for you and the health problem that you’re experiencing,” adds Dr. Daniel.

Related Information

When teens want medicine to help clear up their acne or a strong painkiller for a headache, an alarming number of them skip the doctor and borrow prescription medication from friends, according to a study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Researchers based their study on a survey of approximately 1,500 U.S. boys and girls between the ages of 9 and 18. They found that roughly 19.7% of girls and 13.4% of boys actually borrow or share prescription medicine with both friends and family. Consider these additional findings from the study, published in the journal Pediatrics:

  • About 7% of older teen girls (aged 15-18) reported sharing prescription medication more than three times.
  • Eleven percent of the girls aged 12 to 18 admitted one reason they shared medications is they wanted “something strong for pimples or oily skin.”
  • Nearly two-thirds of those surveyed reported they received prescription medication from a family member.

A survey of 12- to 17-year-olds in the U.S. has found that about 20 percent said they have given their prescription drugs like Oxycontin and Darvocet to friends or obtained drugs the same way, according to a study published online in the Journal of Adolescent Health. Allergy drugs, narcotic pain relievers, antibiotics, acne medications, antidepressants, and anti-anxiety medications were the most commonly shared. About one-third of those who borrowed medications said they had experienced an allergic reaction or other negative side-effects as a result.
Past research has shown that 40 percent of adults also share their medications. “However, prior to our study, no one had asked adolescents how often they shared prescription medications, which meds they shared and what some of the outcomes were,” said lead researcher Richard Goldsworthy of Academic Edge, Inc.

Tips for Parents

According to the CDC study, most of the adolescents surveyed said they actually had their own prescription for the medication they borrowed from friends. They said they borrowed the medication because they either didn’t have the medication with them or they ran out of it. Others said they shared medicine because they “had the same problem as the person who has the medicine.”

What is the harm in sharing prescription drugs? The Nemours Foundation reports that drugs are tools doctors use to fight infection, treat disease and relieve pain. The right drug, however, must be given to the right child, for the right condition, and taken in the right amount and under the right circumstances to work well. Taking another person’s prescribed medication puts a teen at risk for overdose, allergic reactions, hazardous interactions with other medications and dangerous health side effects. In fact, the CDC study reported that many teens share the acne drug Accutane, which can result in severe fetal birth defects if a pregnant teen takes only one dose.

As a parent, it is important to familiarize yourself with the basic elements of a prescription:

  • How much of and how often the medicine should be taken
  • What the side effects and reactions are, if any
  • How the medicine should be taken
  • How the medicine should be stored

If your doctor prescribes medication for your teen, always look at it carefully before you leave the pharmacy. The Nemours Foundation offers these additional questions to ask your pharmacist:

  • Does this medication require special storage conditions (room temperature or refrigeration)?
  • How many times a day should it be given? Should it be given with food? Without food?
  • Should my teen avoid dairy products when taking this medication?
  • Should I look for any special side effects? What should I do if I notice any of these side effects?
  • Should my teen take special precautions, such as avoiding exposure to sunlight, when taking this medication?
  • What should I do if my teen skips a dose?
  • Is it OK to cut pills in half or crush them to mix into foods?
  • Will this medicine conflict with my teen’s alternative treatment of herbal remedies?

To ensure that your teen is using his or her prescription medicine safely, the National Clearinghouse for Drug & Alcohol Information suggests reviewing the following information with your teen and or your physician:

  • Talk with your physician about any other drugs – prescription, over-the-counter or illegal – you are taking. Drugs may interact negatively with one another, causing harmful side effects and even causing medications to be ineffective.
  • Discuss your medical history with your doctor. Side effects caused by some drugs may worsen other health conditions, even if the medication is used properly. For example, some prescription medications may elevate the user’s blood pressure, causing a serious consequence if the user already suffers from high blood pressure.
  • Read the instructions that come with your medication carefully and take the drug exactly as recommended.
  • Do not give your prescription medications to other people, and never take prescription drugs that have not been prescribed to you by a physician.
  • Throw out expired or leftover medicines.