National Prevention Week is May 14 – 20, a SAMHSA-supported annual health observance dedicated to increasing public awareness of, and action around, substance abuse and mental health issues. Each day of the week highlights a health topic and Wednesday’s topic is: Prevention of Opioid and Prescription Drug Abuse.
America’s drug problem isn’t on the streets; it’s in our medicine cabinets. This is a nationwide epidemic with serious and often deadly consequences. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) claimed in early 2015 that prescription drug abuse has become a big health issue because of the danger related to the abuse of prescription pain medications.
NIDA states that for teens, prescription drug abuse is a growing problem. After marijuana and alcohol, prescription drugs are the most commonly abused substances by Americans age 14 and older. Teens abuse prescription drugs for a number of reasons, including to get high, to stop pain, or because they think it will help them with school work. Most teens get prescription drugs they abuse from friends and relatives, sometimes without the person knowing. According to the 2013 Michigan Youth Risk Behavior Survey, the percentage of high school students that indicated that they had taken painkillers that were not prescribed to them had increased from 12.6 % in 2011 to 14.8% in 2013 (Michigan Department of Education, 2016).
Boys and girls tend to abuse prescription drugs for different reasons; boys are more likely to abuse prescription stimulants to get high, while girls tend to abuse them to stay alert or to lose weight (NIDA, 2015).
Becoming aware of the warning signs of use and abuse of prescriptions medications is one way that parents and guardians can help prevent a problem with addiction in their children.
Warning signs may include:
— Excessive mood swings
— Increase or decrease in sleep
— Poor decision-making
— Appearing to be high, unusually energetic or revved up, or sedated
— Possession of pills that are not prescribed to your child
— Continually “losing” prescriptions, so more prescriptions must be written
The increase of the use of prescription drugs in teenagers has been caused by the easy access to prescription medication, the misconceptions that prescription drugs are safe, as well as people sharing drugs that were not prescribed directly to them.
However, there are ways that caretakers can cease adolescent prescription drug abuse before it begins:
— Discuss the dangers with your teens. Emphasize to your young adult that just because drugs are prescribed by a doctor doesn’t mean that they are safe at any time.
— Set rules about your child’s prescription medications. Let your teen know that it’s not okay to share medications prescribed for others. Also stress the importance of dosage.
— Keep your prescription drugs safe. Keep track of the quantities and keep them in a locked medicine cabinet.
— Make sure your child isn’t ordering drugs online. Some websites sell counterfeit and dangerous drugs that may not require a prescription.
— Properly dispose of medications. Check the disposal label or patient information guides. Local pharmacies can answer questions about proper drug disposal. (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 2015).
Community education and outreach programs are becoming more and more available to community members across the nation. The collection of unwanted and expired prescription drugs are also on the rise.
In Chippewa County, unwanted medications can be brought to the Sault Ste. Marie Police Department and the Michigan State Police Post, Monday through Friday between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Residents can also check with their pharmacy to see which medications can be returned.
Families Against Narcotics, a community based group for family members struggling with this issue, meets on the third Thursday of each month at 6:30 p.m. in the Civic Room at Huntington Bank.
For more information on the use, abuse, and prevention of prescription drugs, please visit;