This is the second post in a three-part series about substance use and misuse in the teen years.
Let’s be honest, when was the last time you went through your medicine cabinet? Do you have any leftover medications? I know that my medicine cabinet has not been on my spring cleaning list for a while!
I ask this for a very important reason, especially if you are a parent of a teen. According to the Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey (CAMH, 2011), 14% of students in grades 7 to 12 say they have used prescription pain medication (opioids) without a doctor’s prescription in the last year.
When talking to parents, many are concerned about the drugs that are available on the street. Not many of us consider that the medications in our own homes could actually pose a risk. However, 67% of students say that they got the medication from home (CAMH, 2011). This is why it’s so important to clean out your medicine cabinet.
No one wants to think their teen would use medications that don’t belong to them. Even more, no one wants to think their teen would use these medications to get high.
Because these drugs are legal and available with a prescription from a doctor, many students consider them to be “safe”. But when they are used to get high, there is a serious risk of addiction. Prescription drugs should not be considered party drugs.
Like other drugs, you need to keep taking more to maintain that high as the body develops a tolerance. What’s not commonly known is that when you stop taking the medication, you lose your tolerance. Taking the same dose the next time could result in an overdose.
Not to mention, teens may also be combining these drugs with other substances, like alcohol. In which case, both alcohol and the common prescription drugs used are depressants, and taking them together can pose serious risks. (If you’re interested in learning more about how these drugs affect the brain, visit The Anti-Drug website.)
When it comes to these drugs, prevention is key.
As a parent, there are things you can do to reduce the risk of your teen taking these medications improperly:
- Talk to your teen about prescription medications and the importance of taking them as prescribed. When used properly and under medical supervision, these medications can be effective to manage pain. However, when used improperly, there is a serious risk for addiction.
- Ask your physician, dentist, or pharmacist questions about the medications you or your teen has been prescribed. You may be able to advocate for changes to their prescription (e.g., use of Tylenol #3 instead of Percocet following surgery for wisdom teeth removal).
- Dispose of leftover medications. Most pharmacies will take back medications they have sold to you. However, call your pharmacy first to confirm details. Click here for a list of local pharmacies who will take them back. Do not leave them at home.
- Get informed. There are many websites that can help you start the conversation and keep it going. The Partnership for a Drug Free Canada is a great place to start.
This year make cleaning out your medicine cabinet a priority!
Share your experience:
For more information about substance use and parenting teens, or to share your experience, there are many ways you can talk to one of us directly:
- Leave us a comment below – we’d love your feedback
- Talk to us on Twitter: @haltonparents
- Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Dial 311 or 905-825-6000 for parenting information or to speak directly to a Public Health Nurse every Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
About this guest blogger:
Monique Leparskas RN is a Public Health Nurse on the Youth Health Team, working with schools in Milton. Her favourite part of her job is working with youth to get their voice heard, and to get them connected to their school and community.You can find her tweeting for the Halton Parents team on Friday mornings. Monique is also a member of the “Do you knOw?” Opiate Awareness Group in Halton.