Safeguarding Prescription Drugs in Your Home

You — like most Americans — likely have at least one prescription medication in your home, easily accessible to your teen. Though these substances may seem safer than street drugs, many are addictive and can be just as destructive as illicit substances.

Don’t be fooled by the orange bottles. Prescription drugs — doctor’s note and all — can be equally as dangerous as alcohol or any illicit drug. In fact, adverse reactions from prescription medications cause 10 times as many deaths as illegal drugs, making it the 4th leading cause of death in the U.S.. Doctors fill more than 4 billion prescriptions each year in the U.S., and odds are someone in your family has a prescription. As a parent, it’s important to realize that having these drugs in your house requires you to stay alert.

Dangerous prescription drugs include:

Even with a prescription, these drugs can lead to serious problems like sickness, organ damage and irregular heart activity. But more than ever before, young and old alike are misusing these drugs — taking more than the recommended amount, or taking them without a prescription. In some cases, this can lead to a full-blown drug addiction. Of the 4.6. million drug-related American ER visits in 2009, 27% involved nonmedical use of pharmaceuticals.

Prescription drugs in a cabinet

Other than alcohol and marijuana, pills have become the drug of choice for many experimenting teens. Between 2008 and 2013, teen misuse of prescription drugs increased by 33%. Around 1 in 4 teens have abused a prescription drug at least once in their lifetime, and a third believe it’s okay to use pills that weren’t prescribed to them when treating an injury or illness.

When not using them to self-medicate, teenagers might pass around pills after school, at a party, or even before going to class. Major drugs like Adderall and Ritalin are sometimes called “study drugs” and are popular among teens when taking tests or writing papers. Other drugs, specifically opioid painkillers (e.g. oxycodone, hydrocodone) and anxiety pills (e.g. Xanax, Valium), are a popular new method of “getting high.” Almost half of teens wrongly believe that abusing prescription pills is safer than using illicit drugs. But in 2014, 1,700 young people died from a prescription overdose, and thousands of others landed in the hospital with serious side effects.

Just as you should lock your liquor cabinet, it’s essential to safeguard your medications. Even over-the-counter medications like Tylenol can hurt your children. With no-nonsense prescription drugs — many of which are narcotics, as classified by doctors — the dangers are too severe to leave them in reach of your family.

To best keep your children safe, you should:

  • Put any medications in a locked drawer, cabinet or safe
  • Keep count of the pills in each bottle
  • Keep prescription refill forms hidden and private
  • Make sure your spouse and other older loved ones monitor their own medications
  • Ask the parents of your child’s friends to safeguard their prescriptions as well
  • Don’t throw spare pills in the garbage
  • Remove personal information from pill bottles before you throw them away

Of course, the dangers extend far past your own home. Do everything you can to make your household a safe place to your children. Once you’ve done that, stay alert of your son or daughter’s life outside the house. Get to know to their friends. Monitor their whereabouts, and keep an eye out for any signs of a potential substance problem. And from an early age, explain to your children that drugs and alcohol — and yes, even pills from the doctor’s office — are not to be messed around with. Education is often the key to prevention.

Prescription drugs locked up

Following surgery, an injury, or being diagnosed with a mental health problem (e.g. depression, anxiety, ADHD), your child may be prescribed medication by their doctor. You should closely follow the doctor’s instructions. These prescription drugs can help them through the worst of recovery, or can help them feel “normal” if they suffer from some degree of mental illness.

But as their parent, you need to keep a close eye on the situation every step of the way. Ensure that they don’t take more (or less) than they’re supposed to, and have their progress re-evaluated often. Report any disconcerting side effects to their doctor immediately. Also make sure you keep track of every single pill, and personally oversee each pill’s use if you can. The temptation to share these pills with friends, or even make a quick buck by selling them to classmates, can be difficult to resist. You have a responsibility to make sure these powerful medications get used the way they’re intended, and by the person they were intended for.

If you observe signs of substance abuse in your child, do not take them lightly. We at have spoken to many parents who were taken by surprise when they found out about their child’s substance problem. Even if you’re not sure whether your child is abusing substances, it cannot hurt to reach out to your family doctor or a substance abuse counselor in your area, to discuss the symptoms you have seen. You can also speak privately to an addiction treatment advisor at There is no cost — we just want to help.

Our staff have dedicated their careers to helping parents like you. If you are concerned that your teenager may be abusing substances, please know that we at exist just for you. We wouldn’t be here if we did not believe in the transformative power of drug rehab treatment . Get in touch now — it’s free, confidential and there are no obligations. Your child is worth the call.

Questions? We have answers.

Our addiction specialists have more information about addiction, prevention and treatment program options.

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