How do I prevent prescription drug misuse with my teenager?

Home » How do I prevent prescription drug misuse with my teenager?
April 13, 2015
Edward Smith


Almost every home in America has a medicine cabinet or shelf filled with prescription bottles of drug medication.

We all have that shelf or drawer containing a prescription drug bottle for every family member. Maybe even a few prescription drugs for the family pets have reached the shelf. Life gets busy, and the prescription drug bottles build up before we know it.

The medication bottles may not be in the cupboard for my clients who have sustained severe debilitating injuries. 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 daily.

Parents of teenage children should be aware of the rising misuse of prescription drugs among adolescents and consider the shelf or drawer of prescription drugs in their homes.

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

First, parents need to recognize that this is a 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.

In informal, open settings, communication about this subject matter can help parents foster trust with their children. 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 chart below shows the results of that study.

teenage drug abuse

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

If your children communicate 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 to secure alcohol abuse in their home by keeping alcohol in a location unknown to 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 active adolescents are less prone to abuse prescription medications.

Fifth, if your child is prescribed 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 with 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 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. ‘mail away’ programs also exist to receive unused portions of medications.

For more information on ‘mail-away’ programs, see this link. See this link for information on which locations in your county accept drug substances, including unused prescriptions. 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 valuable information. We at the Edward A Smith Law Offices support National Drug Take Back Day and hope that by promoting the 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. If you need assistance handling an injury claim, please call our office. We can assist in resolving accident claims, trucking cases, slips and falls, motorcycle accidents, and dog bite claims. See our website for a full list of the injury claims we handle.

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