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Teen Prescription Drug Addiction Rising, And Parents Are Not Helping
A Fremont County, Iowa, teen girl who stole dozens of Xanax pills from the family medicine cabinet, passed them around at school, and wound up in the hospital suffering from an overdose herself, was the subject of just one of hundreds of similar news stories this week that illustrate how serious the prescription drug addiction and abuse problem is among American teens.
Kids are abusing more Vicodin, Percocet, OxyContin and other prescription painkillers, and more Xanax, Zyprexa, Risperdal and other psych drugs, than they are abusing all the traditional illicit drugs combined, including meth, cocaine and heroin, says the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. Only marijuana and inhalants are more widely abused than prescription drugs.
Like the unfortunate teenage girl in Iowa, kids that are being admitted for treatment of prescription drug addiction and abuse problems have skyrocketed more than 300 percent since 1995.
Prescription drug addiction and abuse problems can be most effectively prevented through parental supervision and guidance. Parents who openly talk about drug abuse and addiction with their kids, starting when they’re pre-teens, and who remain alert to any signs of drug abuse, have much higher rates of drug-free teens.
But only a third of all parents recently surveyed ever discuss the dangers of prescription drugs with their teenagers. And when they do, they often fail to point out that prescription drug addiction is every bit as possible as addiction to cocaine, heroin or meth. The problem may be that many parents themselves don’t fully appreciate how risky some prescription drugs are, and are part of the pop-a-pill culture that has legitimized and approved prescription drugs in the minds of teenagers.
A failure to lock up or properly dispose of prescription drugs in the home is probably the most easily prevented contributor to teenage prescription drug addiction and abuse.
A recent study from the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University calls the trend “parental negligence”. The CASA study says teenagers are obtaining prescription drugs more easily than ever, all from their parents and relatives.
“A substantial number of American parents have become passive pushers,” says CASA chairman Joseph Califano Jr. “A few decades ago, parents used to have a lock on the liquor cabinet. Maybe there should be a lock on the medicine cabinet. Availability is the mother of use.”
More parental education and prevention measures must be taken to stop the prescription drug addiction and abuse epidemic among America’s youth. While teen abuse of substances such as alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, methamphetamine and cocaine has declined in recent years, injury and deaths among teens and young adults due to prescription drug addiction, and instances of prescription drug abuse, have not declined, says the Partnership For A Drug-Free America.
If the parents of the Iowa teen had secured those unused Xanax pills, a near-disaster could have been avoided. And it’s the same around the country — more kids are getting their drugs from their own parents than anywhere else. Meanwhile, the need for treatment programs for kids, including medical drug detox and rehabilitation, continues to soar.
Rod MacTaggart is a freelance writer that contributes articles on health.
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