What Parents Need to KnowOctober is the 27th national Talk About Prescriptions month. The annual event was created by the National Council on Patient Information and Education (NCPIE), which seeks to raise awareness of the dangers prescription medications can pose when taken incorrectly. Helping parents to educate their teenagers about prescription and over-the-counter medication is a main goal of this organization. Talk About Prescriptions month was created to help consumers to be better informed about the need to use medicines properly and to discard of unused medications.
Some topics parents may need to talk about with their teens include:
- Youth substance abuse
- Addictions and different types of addiction
- Substance misuse
- The importance of patients’ adherence to dosage instructions
- “Medicine cabinet dangers” – the risks of prescription or over-the-counter medication abuse or misuse
Why is this important?
Good question. And the answer is in the final bullet list item above: Medicine cabinet dangers, or the risks of improperly used prescription or over-the-counter medication. Medicine cabinet risks to teens take many forms, such as not taking medications as prescribed (under- or overdosing), taking prescription medicines not prescribed to the teen, or taking out-of-date medications (see our related article on this topic: Got Prescription Drugs? Get Rid of ‘em!).
It’s important for parents to consider that the average teen hasn’t had much experience with being responsible for their own health or medications. What we as parents think of as common sense may not be so obvious to our teens. And what little they do know about drugs is information they get from their peers, which may be incorrect or even dangerously wrong.
Starting the Conversation
Do scare tactics work? Typically, attempting to frighten your kids into not abusing drugs does not work, particularly if you cannot back up what you’re saying with facts. Kids today know that facts are available to them online faster than you can finish your first sentence on the matter. Thus, unsubstantiated claims can even backfire, undermining your credibility with your teens.
|Substance abuse in teens|
is a growing problem.
Also, stay involved in your teen’s prescribed use of drugs; sufficient parental supervision has been found to be a deterrent to illicit drug use in teens.
Beyond prescribed medications, stay alert to social conditions that influence your kids; know how, where, and with whom your teens hang out. Don't be afraid to ask questions. Connect with your teen’s friend’s parents. Limit access to medications in your own home by getting rid of unused medications and by locking up current prescriptions.
Addiction Symptoms– What to Look For
While we all want to believe our children are trustworthy, it’s risky to assume that your teenager is not exposed to peer pressure or that they would not participate in risky behavior related to substance abuse or misuse.
Symptoms of youth substance abuse and addictions vary depending on the drug, but be on the lookout for any of the following:
- Irritability or sleepiness
- Discolored fingertips (tobacco or marijuana use)
- Redness of the whites of eyes
- Excessive appetite
- Lack of motivation
- Changes in mood: excessive happiness/euphoria, fear, anger/rage
- Changes in heart rate
- Poor coordination
- Memory loss
- Nausea or vomiting
How to Get Help
What can you do if the problem is out of hand, or if you simply feel that you need help?
- Your local school counselor or church pastor may be able to talk with your teen or provide you with literature that you can use when talking with your teen.
- For help with understanding the potential risks of substance misuse, Google the phrase “stories about addiction” or “stories about teen drug addiction” to find stories about teen addiction to prescription, illegal, and over-the-counter drugs.
- See the drug addition section of the Mayo Clinic website for statistics and guidance on identifying symptoms of substance misuse in your teen.