How to Address Medicine Abuse with Your Teen

by | Apr 23, 2013 | Uncategorized

Did you know that one of the riskiest teen behaviors starts right at your medicine cabinet?

Modern day prescription drug abuse is dangerously high among teens in the U.S., with one in four teens reporting they have used a prescription drug (when a doctor had not prescribed it for them) in order to get high or change their mood. 

Pharmacies and drug stores are now locking these medicines up to fight off theft. But it seems parents are not realizing there could be an issue as more than four in ten (42 percent) of teens who have misused or abused a prescription drug obtained it from their parent’s medicine cabinet. Prescription drug abuse is more than a trend. It’s an epidemic according to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and now younger kids are joining the ranks (they’re starting as young as 12).

Parents are the first line of defense against this terrifying epidemic, as kids who learn about the risks of drugs at home are up to 50 percent less likely to use them. Contrary to this however, during the last conversation they had with their parents regarding substance abuse, only 14 percent of teens indicated they had discussed the misuse or abuse of any type of prescription drug.

Here are some easy ways to help protect your child from this very risky and potentially life-threatening behavior:

1. Get educated!

This is a national problem affecting one in four American kids. Go to and educate yourself and your family. Take the Pledge with your family to end medicine abuse TODAY, before it’s too late.

2. Set an example.

When parents model behaviors, kids are more likely to follow in their footsteps. According to a new study from The Partnership at, 16 percent of parents admitted to consuming too much alcohol, or misusing or abusing prescription drugs (14 percent) in front of their children.

3. Keep track of how much medicine is in your house.

Monitor your family’s prescription drugs. Don’t make medicine abuse easy for your teen. When is the last time you checked your medicine cabinet? Take action!

  • Don’t stockpile on over-the-counter medicines. It might tempt your teen or his friends.
  • Read medicine labels in the “active ingredient section” of the over-the-counter Drug Facts label.
  • Count your medicine bottles. Remove old bottles. Don’t make Rx pills so accessible. One easy way to dispose of old or unused medicine is to take them to a location near you on Saturday, April 27, the Drug Enforcement Administration’s National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day. For more information, visit:

4. Educate yourself.

Know the types of prescription drugs out there. There are a lot of great resources including The Partnership at’s Parent Toolkit available here. You can also talk directly to an expert about your family’s health needs and concerns. If you suspect your child might be abusing, visit or call their toll-free helpline at 1-855-DRUGFREE.

5. Know the signs of medicine abuse.

Medicine abuse is deceiving because there’s not an obvious alcohol or marijuana odor. Here are signs to look for:

  • Tune into changes in your teen’s behavior. A change in friends, physical appearance and hygiene, disrupted eating or sleeping patterns and energy levels, hostile and uncooperative attitude, unexplained disappearance of household money, visits to pro-drug websites, declining grades, loss of interest in hobbies and usual activities.

Energy levels are extremely important with more emphasis on studying and test taking. A recent study from The Partnership showed that one in four teens believes that prescription drugs can be used as a study aid. And even scarier, nearly one-third of parents say they believe ADHD medication can improve a child’s academic or testing performance, even if the teen does not have ADHD.

  • Check your child’s vitals. Check for slurry speech. Check your son or daughter’s eyes. Watch also for sleepiness or wobbly walking.
  • Watch for side effects of RX abuse. These include confusion, impaired judgment, blurred vision, dizziness, itching, drowsiness, paranoia, excessive sweating, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, headaches, facial redness and disorientation.
  • Unexplained disappearance of medicines from your medicine cabinet. Teens (and tweens) may take several pills or smash them so all of it is released at once. Look in pockets, garbage cans, cars, under beds, etc. for empty wrappers. Teens also crunch up those little time capsules and take them in one lump doses.

6. Monitor your teen’s Internet use.

Many website and online communities promote the abuse of prescription drugs. Social networking sites provide detailed instructions for getting high, as well as videos of kids abusing cough medicine. Also, check your credit card statements: teens can buy many of these drugs easily on the Internet.

7. Talk about the dangers.

Teens (and sometimes, parents) perceive that because medications are available in drug stores and prescribed by doctors, they are safe. Talk about the dangers of abuse (and combining those medications with alcohol and other drugs). Share your talks with other parents and your teen’s friends.  You can find a handy Parent Talk Kit here.

8. Use your influence! Parents are the best firewall. 

Stay involved in your teen’s life –parents are best source at reducing medicine abuse dangers if you are a “hands-on parent:”

1. Don’t be afraid to say no.

2. Monitor your teens.

3. Know their friends.

4. Stay involved in their lives.

You do make a difference!

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