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.
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.
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.
- Shallow breathing
- Loss of consciousness
- Slow or erratic pulse
- Unresponsive to outside stimuli
Since the opioid crisis began, there have been many statistics gathered on its victims, including the unlikely ones: children. There have been thousands of opioid-related emergencies involving children throughout the nation, with some victims as young as 13 months of age.
Accidental Opioid Ingestion Cases
Almost 60,000 children under the age of 5 accidentally ingest prescription medications every year, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC).<
Poison Control Calls
There were 188,000 calls between January 2000 and December 2015 to U.S. poison control centers that involved children who were exposed to opioids, averaging 32 calls a day. This is according to a study conducted by the Center for Injury Research and Policy and the Central Ohio Poison Center at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.
Opioid Poisoning Cases
Fifty-one children under the age of 5 died from opioid poisoning in 2015, according to the Associated Press. This was 51 percent more than the number in 2000.
These statistics are alarming, but medical professionals have increased their efforts to combat the opioid crisis, especially those in the states that have been hardest hit by it. The Recovery Village’s Umatilla, Florida facility and its newest Columbus, Ohio facility are just two of the many drug rehabilitation centers that are part of the efforts. If you currently have a painkiller prescription, you can help lower the number of children who are exposed to these opioids and save lives simply by practicing safe handling and education.
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.
1. Lock Your Medicine Cabinet
This may seem like the most obvious way to protect children from opioid exposure, but only 20 percent of American adults who take prescription medications keep them locked up. This is according to a 2017 Consumer Reports Best Buy Drugs survey of more than 1,000 American adults. Always keep both prescription and over-the-counter medications in a locked place, out of children’s reach. If you store your medications in a drawer, invest in a drawer lock to make it childproof.
2. Check Your Floors
Many prescription opioids like oxycodone and hydrocodone come in tablet form. Just as with any other bottle of pills, it’s easy to accidentally drop a pill or two on the ground as you’re tapping the bottle against your palm. If you have prescription opioids at home, get in the habit of checking the floor after you take them. Even if you know you didn’t drop any, check anyway; you might have dropped one in the past that you missed. It’s better to spend a few extra seconds to scope the area and be 100 percent sure than to risk having a child find them.
3. Know Your Surroundings
According to The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, the five states with the most opioid overdose deaths in 2014 were Ohio, California, New York, Florida and Illinois. There are various cities and neighborhoods within these other states that see a greater amount of drug abuse cases than neighboring areas. That’s why it’s vital to have a general idea of the safety of your surroundings as far as drug abuse is concerned. Which areas see the most drug crimes? Which are the safest overall? If you don’t already have the answers to these questions, you can find them on the sites like crimereports.com. If you’re looking for nationwide statistics on drug abuse, you can find them at drugabuse.gov or cdc.gov.
4. Teach Your Kids About Opioids
While children often learn about the dangers of various drugs in school, that doesn’t mean you can’t provide some education of your own. Even if you don’t have any opioid medications in your home, your child might visit a home that does. That’s why it’s important to talk to them about the dangers of opioids and why they should stay away from them. Showing your child photos of what these drugs look like can also be very helpful. In powder form, some opioids may resemble Pixy Stix or plain sugar to a child. In pill form, they can resemble certain candies. Both forms can easily result in what’s referred to as “exploratory exposure.” With that in mind, remind your child to never ingest any powder or tablet that they come across.
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.
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 TheRecoveryVillage.com 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.
- “Study Shows 70 Percent of Americans Take Prescription Drugs.” CBS News. CBS Interactive Inc., 20 June 2013. Web. 22 Jan. 2016.
- “Over Prescribed America.” Top Masters in Healthcare. Top Masters in Healthcare, n.d. Web. 22 Jan. 2016.
- “Total Number of Retail Prescriptions Filled Annually in the U.S. 2013-2021.” Statista. Statista, 2016. Web. 22 Jan. 2016.
- “Prescription Drugs.” NIDA for Teens. National Institutes of Health, 15 Jan. 2016. Web. 21 Jan. 2016.
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