Teens Not Getting the Message about Prescription Drugs

In the latest research from the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, 37% of teens – more than ever before – revealed they learned a lot about the risks of drugs from their parents. This is good news that parents have heard the message that they are the most powerful influence on their teen’s behaviors regarding drugs and are talking to their children about this important subject.

teengroupOn the other hand, while a majority of teens report that their parents have talked with them about alcohol, marijuana and cocaine, only 24% of teens say their parents have discussed the dangers of prescription and over the counter medicines. Unfortunately, 1 in 5 teens – that’s 4.7 million – has abused a prescription drug at some point in their lifetime, and 1 in 10 has abused an over-the-counter cough medicine. Abuse of prescription drugs is the fastest growing area of substance abuse, and we are seeing some disturbing trends.

A recent survey published in the Journal of Adolescent Health found that about 20 percent of 12- to 17-year-olds in the U.S. said they have given their prescription drugs like OxyContin and Darvocet to friends or obtained prescription drugs from a friend. Allergy drugs, narcotic pain relievers, antibiotics, acne medications, antidepressants, and anti-anxiety medications were the most commonly shared. Three-quarters of those who borrowed drugs from friends said they did so in lieu of visiting a doctor. About one-third of those who borrowed medications said they had experienced an allergic reaction or other negative side-effects as a result.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently reported that rising rates of prescription-drug overdoses have propelled drug-related fatalities to the top of the accidental-death list in a growing number of states. Although automobile crashes remain the top cause of accidental death nationally, drug-related incidents caused more deaths in 16 states, including New Jersey. Most of the deaths were due to overdoses, especially of opioid analgesics like methadone, Vicodin, OxyContin, and fentanyl.

Online Resources

You can find a wealth of user-friendly, research-based tools regarding drug use in children at a website called StraightDopeForParents.org. They provide information including: how to recognize risk factors that often precede adolescent substance abuse; what you should do if you think a child is using drugs; how to coach kids to turn down drug offers; and how to prepare children to avoid substance use in college.

The Partnership for a Drug Free America just launched a new website called “A Parent’s Guide to the Teen Brain” at http://www.drugfree.org/teenbrain. This website explores the science behind teenage brain development, provides insight into normal teenage attitude and behavior, and offers tools and tips designed to help you connect with your teen.

You can obtain an online guide for talking to children about drugs and alcohol at: http://www.talkingwithkids.org/alcohol.html.

Local Resources in Somerset County, New Jersey

National Hotlines

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