How do I prevent prescription drug misuse with my teenager?


In almost every home in America you will find a medicine cabinet or shelf filled with prescription bottles of drug medication.

We all have that shelf or drawer that contains a bottle of prescription drugs for every family member.  Maybe even a few prescription drugs for the family pets have found there way to the shelf.  Life gets busy and before we know it, the prescription drug bottles begin to build up.

For my clients who have sustained severe debilitating injuries, the bottles of medication may not be in the cupboard long. So while they may not have that same ‘collection’ as some of us, they do have medication readily available that can be found in the cupboard on a daily basis.

Parents of teenage children should be aware of the rising misuse of prescription drugs among adolescents and give thought to that shelf or drawer of prescription drugs that’s in their home.

What can parents do to reduce the misuse of pain medications with their teenagers?

First, parents needs to recognize that this is widespread epidemic. Teenagers are 10 times more likely to abuse prescription medication than they are to use street drugs like heroin. This includes teenagers who are honor students, athletes and otherwise well-behaved. Your teenager is likely more aware of this epidemic than you are.  So, talk to them. Help them understand that prescription drug misuse is the same as using street drugs.

Communication about this subject matter in informal open settings can help a parents foster trust with their child.  It also makes it easier for a child to seek help if medication misuse is already occurring.

The National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) has collected data on teen abuse of two types of prescription opioids—Vicodin and OxyContin.  The below chart shows the results of that study.  This chart was originally published here.

teenage drug abuse

Second, if open communication already exists regarding medication misuse, it will make monitoring your kids friends easier. Get to know the parents of your teenagers friends and foster good relationships with them.

If your children communicates to you that their friends are misusing prescription medication, focus on the positive aspect that your child was honest with you. Do not focus on your disappointment that your child is their friend. Learn how your child feels about this, what they have done to help their friend, and if they feel tempted to use prescription medication.

Third, secure the location of your prescription medications.  Many parents take steps secure alcohol abuse in their home by keeping alcohol in a location that is either unknown by their teenagers or under lock.

We should not allow prescription drugs to be easily accessible to teens.  While our child may not have a prescription drug issue, we don’t want our home to  unwittingly become a supplier of drugs to kids.

Fourth, keep your kids busy. Studies show that adolescents who are active are less prone to abuse prescription medications.

Fifth, if your child is prescribed a pain medication for an injury, monitor the use, control the dosage rather than give them the bottle, explain in detail that the medication can only be used in harmony with the doctor’s orders and be frank your child’s doctor if you suspect abuse of prescription medication.  Perhaps other options like physical therapy can be tried instead of medication.

Fifth, many parents return  unused portions of prescription drugs to prevent prescription drug misuse.   Pharmacies are not allowed to take unused medications back.  However, many hospitals can.  Most law enforcement agencies can also accept controlled substances and medications. There also exists ‘mail away’ programs to receive unused portion of medications.

For more information on ‘mail-away’ programs, see this link.  For information of which locations in your county accept drug substances including unused prescriptions, see this link.  The Drug Enforcement Administration also allows one to search by zip code for locations that provide this service.

Saturday, September 27, 2015, is National Drug Take Back day and their website provides useful information.  We, at the Edward A Smith Law Offices, support National Drug Take Back Day and hope that by promoting safe disposal of prescription medication we can help prevent teenagers from medication misuse.

As a personal injury lawyer and founder of the premier Sacramento personal injury law firm, we are committed to helping victims of traumatic and debilitating injuries recover and obtain fair compensation for their injuries.  If you need assistance in handling an injury claim, please call our office. We can assist in resolving accident claims, trucking cases, slip and falls, motorcycle accidents, and dog bite claims.  For a full list of the injury claims we handle see our website.

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