Oftentimes, due to limited life experiences, teens aren’t fully aware of the consequences of prescription drug abuse. If they are aware, then it’s common for teens to believe that they are immune.
To make matters worse, prescription medications, such as hydrocodone and Ritalin, are easily accessed by teens, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Numerous adolescents also believe that anything prescribed by a doctor is safe.
Ways to Prevent Prescription Drug Abuse
This mixture of circumstances and false beliefs is a recipe for teen prescription drug abuse.
So, how can you prevent your child from abusing prescription drugs?
Monitor Your Family’s Prescriptions
First and foremost, be sure to safely dispose of any unused prescriptions and keep current prescriptions out of your teen’s reach.
According to SAMHSA, nearly half of teens find it easy to acquire prescription pills and syrups from a parent’s medicine cabinet. This is one of the main reasons why teens abuse prescription drugs—simply because they are available. Make them unavailable, and your teen will be less likely to abuse them.
Check for Vitamin Deficiencies
You may remind your teen to take their multivitamin every morning, but is it enough? A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Pediatrics found that about a quarter of urban teens may not be getting enough vitamin D.
This and other nutrient deficiencies can cause symptoms that lead teens to abuse drugs.
For example, a vitamin D, magnesium or iron deficiency can cause constant fatigue. Feeling sleepy all the time can be very frustrating to a young, active adolescent, which can make the stimulating effects of medications like Adderall or Vyvanse sound appealing.
If you think your teen has a nutrient deficiency, it’s important to talk to their pediatrician. Usually, a simple blood test and physical examination can determine if your child’s nutrient levels are where they need to be.
Once you know which deficiencies they have, if any, you can talk with their doctor about creating an appropriate nutrition plan. This can help your child feel better without misusing prescription drugs.
Underlying Medical Conditions
Much like nutrient deficiencies, underlying medical conditions may cause mental or physical symptoms that disrupt a teen’s daily life. This can also lead to prescription drug abuse.
For instance, teens may abuse drugs to counteract or run away from symptoms caused by the following health issues:
- Chronic pain
- Sleep problems
- Depression, anxiety and other mental health disorders
- Inflammatory diseases (e.g. Crohn’s disease, hay fever)
- Diseases with embarrassing symptoms (e.g. recurring rashes, mouth sores, skin lesions)
If your teen has any health issues like the ones listed above, they can benefit from talking to a counselor.
A licensed therapist can help them cope with pain, humiliation, low self-esteem and other unfortunate side effects of mental or physical illness. With healthy coping mechanisms in place, your teen will be less likely to seek out prescription drugs for relief.
Have a Two-way Discussion
You’ve probably heard that talking to your teen about drugs is important. However, it is also important to listen and create an atmosphere of trust so your teen feels comfortable coming to you about substance abuse issues.
Your open ears, understanding and willingness to have a thorough discussion may be the single most effective way to keep your kid from abusing medications.
What to Do If Your Teen Is Abusing Prescription Drugs
Sometimes preventing drug abuse can prove to be harder than expected. Your teen may get pills at school or from a friend’s house and abuse them despite your best efforts.
If this is the case, don’t be ashamed to reach out to a licensed therapist. They can get to the bottom of your teen’s prescription drug abuse and make recommendations on how they can overcome it.
Quitting certain medications abruptly, such as benzodiazepines (e.g. Xanax and Valium), can be very dangerous. If you think your teen has become dependent on prescription drugs, please contact a doctor who specializes in teen substance abuse treatment so your teen can detox safely.