As parents, relatives, teachers and concerned adults, we spend a lot of time helping teens circumvent the challenges that could ruin their lives. Perhaps one of the biggest challenges is substance abuse.
While survey data from The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration show that overall illicit drug use among youth ages 12 through 17 has declined since 2002, there has been no such decline in the non-medical use of prescription medications.
One in five teens – 4.5 million young people – have reported abusing prescription drugs, according to the National Council on Patient Information and Education. Teens are abusing these drugs to get high, fall asleep, wake up and deal with stress. Teens believe that because prescription drugs are legal, they are safer than their illicit counterparts, making these medications the statistical drug of choice right after alcohol and marijuana. One in three teens say there is “nothing wrong” with abusing Rx medications “every once in a while,” according to reports from The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.
Prescription drugs are also easy to get. Fifty-six percent of people who use prescription medications non-medically say they obtain these drugs from friend and relatives, according to the reports; Meaning that these drugs are freely shared or taken from medicine cabinets or other accessible places. How do we protect the rights of those who legitimately need these medications, while also preventing their abuse?
- Tell someone: We need to get the word out that prescription drugs are a source of grave concern – teens are abusing these drugs and some are even dying because of it. Find out more at www.PreventRxAbuse.org.
- Talk to your teen: Talk openly to the youth in your life about the dangers of abusing prescription drugs – beginning as early as middle school. Teens don’t know that prescription drugs can damage the brain and other organs, lead to accidental overdose (especially when combined with alcohol), cause physical dependency and/or addiction, disrupt breathing, or even cause seizures and even death.
- Lock up your prescription medication: Or at the very least, store them where children/grandchildren, nieces/nephews or their friends can’t access them.
- Keep track of your meds: Notice if your regular medications are disappearing faster than normal. Ask questions.
- Get rid of unneeded and expired meds – but don’t flush them: If you have prescription drugs that you no longer need, dispose of them properly. Every city in Solano County hosts at least one Prescription Drug Take-Back event during the year. In fact from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m onApril 27, four of the cities will be participating in a national take-back event:
- Benicia Police Department, 200 East L Street.
- Dixon Police Department, 201 West A Street.
- Rio Vista Police Department, 50 Poppy House Road.
- Fairfield Solano County Sheriff Coroner’s Office, 520 Clay Street.
- Get involved: Did you know that your city has a coalition made up of parents, youth, school officials, law enforcement, prevention specialists, and healthcare providers who are all working to prevent youth from using alcohol, tobacco and other drugs? Find out more about your “city team,” including how to join, here: http://tiny.cc/cityteaminfo.
Jenny Symons is the community programs manager of Solano Coalition for Better Health. Solano Coalition for Better Health is a member of Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America.