Seventy percent of kids who abuse prescription drugs get them from family and friends, according to the National Family Partnership, a major drug prevention organization.
“The No. 1 mistake parents make is thinking it can’t happen to their child,” says Peggy Sapp, president of the partnership.
Recognize the risk. While marijuana is the drug most commonly abused by teenagers, prescription drugs — including painkillers, amphetamines and medication for attention deficit disorder — are high on the list. So are over-the-counter cough medications.
Explain the risk. Make sure kids know that using prescription drugs incorrectly can be just as dangerous and addictive as taking illegal drugs; many teens think they’re “safer.”
Start talking early: the average age of first drug use is 12½ years.
Store drugs safely. A locked medicine cabinet is ideal. Also do regular inventories of your supply to make sure none is missing, as well as to toss old prescriptions.
Dispose of drugs safely. Look for “take-back” events organized by local drug stores or police departments. If you put medication in the trash, mix it with cat litter or coffee grounds so kids won’t dig it out. To protect waterways, don’t flush pills down the toilet.
Set a good example. Take medicines only as directed, and don’t share prescriptions between family members. Teach kids that medications are meant for one person at a certain dose.
Have family dinners. Ask kids about the best and worst parts of their day. Children who learn to express their emotions and solve their problems are less likely to turn to drugs.
Get to know your child’s friends. Take the time to meet their parents, too. They can help protect your kids and notice symptoms such as dramatic personality changes, loss of appetite or bloodshot eyes.
Collect information. Go to www.lockyourmeds.org for more tips and resources.