It is as simple as opening a medicine cabinet, looking through a kitchen drawer, or swiping a medicine bottle off the counter. Prescription drug use and misuse is not just a drug deal taking place on a dark corner. It is happening in homes; hidden in plain sight.
The fastest growing drug problem in the United States isn’t cocaine, heroin or methamphetamines. It is prescription drugs and the effect is detrimental to the lives of our teenagers. The prescription drugs most often abused include opioid painkillers, anti-anxiety medications, sedatives and stimulants.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) prescription drug abuse is the use of a prescription medication in a way not intended by the physician. Prescription drug abuse, also called “problematic use,” includes everything from taking a friend’s prescription painkiller for a backache to snorting or injecting ground-up pills to get high. When taken in high doses, combined with other prescription drugs or over the counter medications, or even taken with alcohol or illegal recreational drugs, it can lead to a serious health crisis and even death.
Parents, grandparents, and caregivers can help reduce the availability and easy accessibility of prescription drugs by locking up their medications and safely discarding old and unused medications. It is also important to be aware of common signs and symptoms of prescription drug abuse. Excessive mood swings, increase or decrease in sleep, appearing to be high, unusually energetic or revved up, or sedated, requesting early refills, or owner of the medication may notice missing or fewer pills.
Prescription drug abuse can happen at any age, but commonly begins in teens or young adults. Risk factors for prescription drug abuse can include past or present addictions to other substances such as alcohol or tobacco, family history of drug abuse, preexisting psychiatric conditions, easier access to prescription drugs, such as medications in the homes not locked up, and lack of knowledge about the potential harm of prescription drug misuse and abuse.
Terre Haute has a team of people from all sectors of the community leading in the fight to reduce the availability of unused prescription medications. Drug Free Vigo County Coalition collaborates with Terre Haute Police Department, Indiana State University Police, Mental Health organizations, volunteer pharmacist as well as volunteer parents and various other supporters in The National Take Back Initiative. The purpose is to help families who do not have access to proper medical disposal clean out their homes of unused and outdated prescription pills.
Throughout the United States the Take Back event occurs twice annually in the spring and in the fall. Locally, the Drug Free Vigo County staff and volunteers set up at the Meadow Shopping Center’s large parking lot. The dates and times are advertised through various media outlets such as local radio stations, local news affiliates and social media sites. Drug Free Vigo County also provides Data Management Solutions paper shredding services to serve people in shredding private documents safely. There are permanent drug drop off containers located at the Terre Haute Police Department, the Vigo County Sheriff’s office, and Indiana State University Public’s Safety Office, for people to properly discard unused and outdated prescription medications any time during the year.
When children are not provided the opportunity to achieve positive personal development, it can lead to risky behaviors such as prescription drug experimentation. Chances And Services for Youth, a non-profit organization dedicated to serving children from cradle to college, takes a serious approach to helping children develop positive self-esteem, strong social skills, and provide services to meet the insecurities that may lead a teen to “self-medicate” with drugs and/or alcohol as a coping mechanism.
The NIDA states if a community is committed to providing protective factors for children and youth, it will experience a decrease in risk factors attributed to drug misuse and abuse. An example of a risk factor are kids not believing prescription drugs are dangerous. This mind-set can lead to the layering of risky behaviors, such as abusing drugs combined with sexual activity, leading to more sexual partners, with an increase of sexually transmitted infections and teen pregnancy.
So as coffee is being poured in to-go mugs and kids are scarfing down cereal rushing to get out the door; stop and take a moment to observe what may be hiding right in front of you. Talk openly with your child about the risks and negative consequences of abusing prescription drugs, learn from them by hearing their view of the drug issues they see, and discuss ways your teen can push back on peer pressure and what they can do and say when they find themselves in a situation where they have to take a stand.