First Posted: 10/19/11 05:47 PM ET Updated: 10/19/11 07:45 PM ET
Our general attitude toward prescription drugs is that they’re going to make our lives happier and better. Pills are designed to treat medical problems, not to make life easier. Adults think you can use these things without consequences, and adolescents don’t see the long-term horizon.
Kids aren’t dumb: if they have a genuine perception that something is harmful to them, they’re less likely to use it. but, their pre-frontal cortex– the part of the brain that perceives consequences — isn’t fully developed. the casualness with which pills are used in our homes is sending a message to them.
While prescripiton drug abuse isn’t new, it’s on the rise. One in every five teens were using them in 2009, then one in every four teens were in 2010, according to Dr. Drew and Smart Moves, Smart Choices, and awareness initiative.
The organization has paired up with the man on the frontlines of battling addiction, Dr. Drew Pinsky. Huff Post Parents talked to him about a missed connection between suicidal thoughts and Xanax, why parents need a lockbox instead of a medicine cabinet and the number one sign of drug abuse.
Among teens there’s a general note of, What’s the big deal? They’re given by doctors, mom and dad use them, how harmful coudl they be? And oh by the way, they really do get me high. They work, and I can steal them right out of my own medicine cabinet. I don’t have to go get them from the guy on the street corner! How are teens getting their hands on the pills? Sixty-four percent of drugs come from a friend or relative. There are a lot of pills out there lying around. Sometimes kids are stealing from a friend. It’s so pervasive and handled so casually in the home that kids can steal an entire bottle of pills and no one notices. Take us through the drugs of choice — what are kids into these days? Different cultures have different drugs of appeal. The general clases are benzodiazepines (Xanax, Valium), psychostimulants (Aderall, Ritalin) and opiates (Oxycontin, Vicodin, and Codeine). The psychostimulants — meds used to treat ADD and ADHD — are big on college campuses. They’re widely available because many students are on them for functional purposes to study. They’re dangerous because they can trigger manic episodes and depression. The most problematic class is the opiates. these are the painkillers, a giant class. You name the painkiller, it’s abused by kids. How will we know if our own kids are popping pills? There ar ealmost no signs. That’s the really difficult part about this. Mental health issues, including substance abuse in adolescents, have the same constellation of symptoms. The things to know to watch for are changes in sleep patterns, appetite, their dress, who they hang out with. The number one sort of sign that something’s going on is a sudden drop in grades. If you suspect your kid has a habit, what’s the best way to bring it up? Do not go it alone, because here’s what you’re going to get from your kid: “I’m fine.” There’s not a 15 or 17 year old out there who is going to completely open up to their parents. Quickly get help if you have any signs that something’s really wrong. Start at school. So many people think of the school as the problem, but the school is your friend. Thery’re professionals with specialized training. What’s the one thing you want parents to know? That prescription drug abuse is a much bigger problem than they know and that we’re contributing to it by our casual attitudes. For more information visit www.Smartmovessmartchoices.org.