Teens and Prescription Drugs

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Unprescribed Prescription Drugs Kill

There is nothing – nothing – in this world more sad and senseless than the funeral of a young person.

The slide show plays over-sized pictures of smile after smile, proof of a life that was happy. Joyous. So full of promise. And now it’s all wiped away like a dry erase board. As if it never happened.

I’ve attended two in the last two weeks. They were the children of friends. And it was utterly heartbreaking to watch my friends have to bury their children. 

Attendees at a teen’s funeral walk around in shock. The news came so unexpectedly – that phone call from out of the blue. “I have horrible news…” And you really do have to sit down because what you just heard doesn’t make any sense. Someone is saying the words, but your brain seems unable to decipher them. You go to the funeral but none of it seems real.

It is profoundly sad. And so utterly senseless. 

When you tell people that you have to go to a teen’s funeral, they automatically assume it was a car wreck. They must have been driving drunk, or maybe they fell asleep on a road trip, or were drag racing on a city street. Everyone had someone in their high school die that way, right? I know I did, back in the 80s. But it seems today there’s a different accident that’s taking our children from us. And it involves prescription medication. 

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 7.4 percent of teens reported non-medical use of prescription medications within the past year. Prescription and over-the-counter drugs are among the most commonly abused drugs by 12th graders, after alcohol, marijuana and tobacco. And it’s so easy for them to get their hands on it. It might even be coming out of your bathroom cabinet. 

Teens seem to believe – mistakenly – that taking prescription drugs is safer than abusing street drugs, because medicine is regulated by the government and prescribed by doctors. There’s a good reason why prescription medication is meant to be taken under a doctor’s supervision: Taken incorrectly, pills can kill. 

And here’s why: Depressants like pain killers, sedatives, even alcohol, all slow down your breathing. Taken in too high a dose – or in combinations – they can cause respiratory distress. In other words, your breathing slows down so much that it eventually…just…stops. For this reason, doctors ask what medications you’re on before they prescribe these pills. Dealers typically don’t check those kinds of details. 

A teen on doctor-prescribed anti-depressants or anti-anxiety medication can have a fatal reaction to an unprescribed pain killer. I know this for a fact. 

I attended the funerals. 

How You Can Protect Your Children From Prescription Drugs

Don’t leave controlled substances where they have access to them.

Watch for the typical signs of drug abuse – especially a dramatic change in sleep habits.

The best offense for a parent is to talk to your teens.

Explain to them the physiology of pills and how easily they can become fatal. Warn them of the risks.

Tell them what you expect of them – that you expect them not to do drugs. That you expect them to live.

 

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