Today, 50% of American adults take at least one prescription medication and more than 1 in 10 take five or more prescriptions a month. While this means that quality of life and health are improved for millions of people, it also means there are a lot of medications floating around that could get into the wrong hands.
It’s a serious concern that has gotten the attention of health agencies. Experts now know that prescription painkiller abuse has played a major role in the opioid addiction epidemic.
Unfortunately, teens are among the groups who are most likely to abuse prescription medications. Surveys have found as many as one-quarter of teens will abuse prescription medication at some point. Teen prescription drug use can begin as a legitimate need, but if it isn’t monitored carefully things can spiral downward. Other times teens gain prescription medications illegally from friends or a dealer.
It’s up to parents to make sure their teens understand the dangers of taking medications that aren’t prescribed to them. You also have to take action immediately if you discover they have been taking prescription pills they didn’t get from the doctor.
Use a Pill Identifier Tool
If you find a loose pill in your teen’s room or pocket the first step is to find out what it is. There’s a chance it could be something completely harmless, or it could be very dangerous.
A pill identifier is an online tool that can be used to determine what a medication is if the bottle isn’t available. Simply type in or select characteristics of the pill and the identifier will produce a list of possible medications. Imprints or symbols on the pill are two of the best identifiers.
After you submit the information the pill identifier will produce a list of medications along with images. Use this to compare the pill you found and figure out what it is. If it isn’t clear you may need to take the pill to your local pharmacist for identification.
Find Out What the Pill is For
Once you know what the pill is you need to find out what it’s for. Research the name of the pill to learn why it’s prescribed in the first place. This can also give you an indication of where the pill came from.
Another thing to look for is side effects. Every medication can cause potential side effects, some of which are very dangerous. If a person has a medical condition or is taking another medication, mixing the prescriptions could cause adverse effects.
Finally, research whether the prescription medication is taken recreationally. Some medications, such as opioid painkillers can make y when they aren’t taken for their intended purpose.
Talk to Your Kids About Prescription Use
Before jumping to the conclusion that your teen is abusing prescription drugs, try your best to have a calm conversation with your teen. Let them know that you have the medication and that you know what it is. Follow up by asking them how they got the pill and why they are taking it.
Many teens and adults mistakenly believe that because prescription medications come from a doctor they’re safe to take. Some teens will take prescriptions with good intentions, like staying up to study, not to get high. They fail to realize that even when medications aren’t used recreationally they can be dangerous.
From there you can decide how best to approach the situation. If your teen is experiencing some sort of medical need, schedule an appointment with the doctor ASAP. If they were taking the medication to get high you should seriously consider profession drug counseling before the problem gets worse.
The Importance of Medication Adherence
If your teen is prescribed a medication take steps right from the start to curb abuse. Make sure the pill is only taken as prescribed (medication adherence). Pay attention to both the dosage and the frequency. Never deviate from the directions for any reason, and begin decreasing the dosage as quickly as possible.
Once your teen no longer needs the prescription medication it’s safest to discard it. Medication must be disposed of properly to ensure public safety. Some medications can be flushed, but many others can be thrown in the trash if you follow certain precautions. You can also safely dispose of unused medications through a drug take-back program.
Parents also have to be careful with their own prescription medications. Many teens gain access to pills by rummaging through medicine cabinets in their house. Prescription medications should always be kept out of sight and carefully monitored. Keep track of how many pills you take so you’ll know if you come up short.