Sadly, addiction to prescription pills is one of the more common medical and behavioral problems that teenagers today face. Even worse is that this is a growing problem, one that all parents and family members should be aware of in order to ensure that their children do not fall into the trap that is addiction and prescription drug abuse. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways that active, engaged parents can help prevent their teens from becoming addicted to prescription pills.
Statistics About Teenage Prescription Drug Abuse
Tragically, the problem of prescription drug use and abuse among teenagers is not a small one. According to official information, teenagers are the demographic most likely to abuse prescription drugs, with 14.4% of teenagers surveyed reporting that they used prescription drugs for a non-medical reason at some point in the past year. This huge number essentially means that at least three in every 20 teenagers have abused a prescription drug. Perhaps even more frightening is that the abuse also exists in substantial levels among 12 to 17-year-olds with 4.9%, or nearly one in 20, reporting the same.
The most common source for these drugs is from friends, and others are stolen from a relative. These methods would indicate that the misuse of prescription drugs is something that is done on an interpersonal level. It also means that relatives may inadvertently be hoarding the medications that could result in a teenager abusing a vital medication.
Tragically, the abuse of prescription drugs often turns into something more damaging. Multiple studies have tied prescription drug use to the abuse of other drugs, including alcohol, cocaine, marijuana, and heroin. The heroin connection is particularly noteworthy because it is widely accepted that our current opioid crisis began as doctors became more liberal in prescribing pain medications as part of an effort to help individuals manage chronic pains or injuries. Tragically, many of the patients who legitimately needed help then became addicted to the pain pills, eventually turning to heroin in order to obtain the high that they needed.
Actions That Parents Can Take
The current statistics are frightening, but parents can breathe a sigh of relief in at least one regard. It is unquestionably possible to reduce the odds of your child becoming addicted to prescription drugs. The process takes time, some research, and good communication skills. It also takes some planning.
It’s important to realize that having this conversation for the first time when your child is a teenager is helpful. Still, it’s not as effective as making sure your child understands the effects of prescription drugs on a body. As your child becomes old enough to understand the concerns, have conversations with him or her as a reminder of just how powerful, potent, and potentially dangerous these medications can be. Ongoing conversation helps to set the stage for your child to become a healthy user of medicine as they get older.
When your children do become teenagers, you can begin to broach more serious conversations with them. Communicate on this issue clearly, and make sure they know that taking drugs not prescribed to them is dangerous and illegal and can get them very sick or addicted. This conversation can be part of a longer dialogue about drugs, but when you talk, make sure that your kids know that illegal drugs are not the only potential threat to their health or well-being. Every parent has to make a judgment call about the right way to approach this conversation. Generally speaking, it should be an open and honest conversation that is more oriented towards communicating dangers rather than threatening punishments.
You should make sure that unused prescription drugs are properly disposed of. Many people have received prescriptions at some point for pain killers, sleeping pills, or tranquilizers. These drugs may have been in your medicine cabinet for so long that you completely forgot about them, and they may have been expired years ago. However, the easiest way to reduce the odds of your child abusing prescription drugs is to dispose of these old drugs.
There are many ways to properly discard old medications. First and foremost, throw them out. Throw them in the garbage, and if you are worried about your children finding the drugs, bury them under some extra trash. Many communities will also periodically offer drug take-back drives, which may include putting old prescription drugs in secure lockboxes. These events may be harder to find, and they are typically offered only periodically, but they are excellent methods of getting rid of unused drugs. You can also contact your pharmacist for advice about how to best dispose of drugs. One way you should definitely not get rid of them is by dumping them down the drain or in the toilet. This act can actually pollute the local water supply with the drug.
If your child spends time at a relative, like a grandparent, you may want to ask this family member to get rid of their drugs as well. Disposing of the medications removes any temptation for your kids to take the prescription drugs.
Remember, according to the federal government, the top way that teenagers access prescription drugs illegally is via a friend or a medicine cabinet at home. This means that you should always keep an eye on your child’s social interactions. Furthermore, if you do need to take prescription medication but are worried about your child or one of their friends having access to that medication, store it somewhere where it cannot be found.
There are broader issues that you should keep an eye on, as well. Always try to stay engaged in your child’s social life and make sure that their friends are good influences. Monitor internet use, and make sure your kids aren’t having conversations about drugs or making illegal prescription purchases. You should also make sure that you have a good handle on local issues. Prescription drug use outbreaks are often tied to local issues, and if your area is struggling with drugs, you may want to keep an extra close eye on your child.
How to Tell If Your Child Is Addicted to Prescription Drugs
Sadly, despite the best efforts of countless parents, many teenagers ultimately do develop issues with prescription drug use. Many of these teens or kids may try to hide their habits, but there are almost always telltale signs that can be discovered by parents.
Changes in your teen’s physical appearance may be the easiest way to tell if your teen is abusing prescription drugs. It’s difficult to narrow down the specific physical changes that may occur if someone is abusing prescription drugs, but it could be any number of symptoms, including bloodshot eyes, sudden weight gain or loss, changes in sleeping patterns, nosebleeds, or more.
The changes may also be reflected in your teen’s choice of clothing, which may abruptly change in order to match the preferences of a new social group. In essence, if there is a sudden and unexplained change in your teen’s appearance, you should be concerned.
Emotionally, your children may become more distant or secretive. He or she may be less honest and appear to be hiding things from you. If your teens are intoxicated, their behavior may change wildly, suddenly becoming much more hyper or alert. They may be less emotionally open with you and talk with you less, even going as far as to avoid eye contact.
From a social perspective, you may find that your child has a completely new group of friends and has dropped friends who had previously been around for years. He or she may also be paying much less attention to school or work, or he or she may have suddenly started getting into trouble. You may hear from teachers or other loved ones that they are concerned about your child’s behavior. Your teen may also stop hanging out with friends altogether and suddenly appear much more sullen or withdrawn, choosing to spend time in his or her room or isolated from you. You may also notice that there is an abrupt change in normal habits and that he or she simply is not doing things he or she used to enjoy.
Forms of Therapy
Having a child who abuses prescription drugs can be an absolute nightmare, but it is something that can be managed. Thankfully, there are a variety of forms of therapy for prescription drug abuse. These include:
- Behavioral counseling with a trained and certified professional – Everyone responds differently to various forms of therapy, but a trained counselor will review your child’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, helping him or her to identify problems and to resolve conflicts. Furthermore, counseling may be useful in addressing underlying mental health disorders, such as depression, anxiety, or managing any traumatic experiences.
- Medication, such as suboxone or Vivitrol – Medication-assisted therapy is only appropriate for certain types of addictions, but ample evidence shows that it may be extremely helpful for individuals who are addicted.
- Family therapy – In some cases, family therapy may be appropriate, as the drug use may stem from broader challenges or conflicts within the family environment.
- Individual therapy – A trained therapist may provide a series of lifestyle recommendations, including helping your teenager to better manage his or her relationships and to change social groups to find healthier friendships.
- Alternative therapies – Depending on the therapy center, your child may benefit from what are typically considered more “alternative” forms of therapy, like yoga, meditation, or art therapy. These forms of therapy have been proven to be effective when it comes to treating addictions.
The type of therapy that you will ultimately select depends on your needs and the needs of your child. Furthermore, there are a variety of different types of therapy available. On the one hand, outpatient therapy has proven to be a highly effective and useful form of therapy that will get your child the help they need while minimizing the disruption to everyday life. Outpatient therapy is a type of therapy that involves any of the techniques listed above, including meeting with a trained professional and engaging in group therapy. However, upon the conclusion of a therapy appointment, your child will go home and stay there under your supervision.
There are also more intensive forms of outpatient therapy that involve multiple therapy sessions and that are typically longer than regular outpatient therapy. However, even intensive outpatient does not require a residential component.
By contrast, inpatient therapy does have a residential component. This means that your child will live at a certified residential program for a set period of time. These programs are often more comprehensive than outpatient programs. They also offer 24/7 supervision, often providing safer and more structured program management than what is available in an outpatient program. Inpatient treatment programs are particularly useful if you truly believe that your loved one cannot be unsupervised.
Help Is Available
If you or someone you love needs help with prescription drug addiction, there are options. Reach out to Granite Recovery Center. We offer a wide array of programs that can help someone you love overcome addiction, including a world-class, evidence-based treatment program that offers inpatient or outpatient treatment. You can call us today at 855-712-7784.