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Teens and Drug Abuse: Rx and OTC Medications

Stay connected with your child and keep the lines of communication open. Learn about the sources of stress in your child's life, and be prepared to get him or her professional help, if necessary. Don't shy away from talking to your child about drugs--even if you're worried about a bit of illegal drug use in your own past. Educate yourself about the dangers of Rx and OTC drug abuse, and then make sure your child understands the dangers.

Take steps to prevent Rx abuse in your home by following these tips from the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign:

Safeguard all drugs at home. Monitor quantities and control access to all prescriptions in your home. Take note of how many pills are in a bottle or pill packet, and keep track of refills. If you find you have to refill medication more often than expected, there could be a real problem--someone may be taking your medication without your knowledge. Ask friends and family, especially grandparents, to safeguard their prescription drugs, too. Make sure they know about the risks, and encourage them to regularly monitor their own medicine cabinets.

Set clear rules for teens about all drug use, including not sharing medicine and always following the medical provider's advice and dosages. Make sure your teen also follows instructions for OTC products carefully. This includes taking the proper dosage and not using with other substances without a medical provider's approval. Teens should understand the danger of taking a prescription or OTC drug with street drugs or alcohol.

Be a good role model by following these rules with your own medicines. Examine your own behavior to ensure you set a good example. Avoid sharing your drugs, and always follow your medical provider's instructions.

Properly conceal and dispose of old or unused medicines in the trash. Unused prescription drugs should be hidden and thrown away in the trash. To prevent teens or others from taking them out of the trash, you can mix them with an undesirable substance (e.g., used coffee grounds or kitty litter) and put the mixture in an empty can or bag. Unless the directions say otherwise, do NOT flush medications down the drain or toilet, because the chemicals can pollute the water supply. Also, remove any personal, identifiable information from prescription bottles or pill packages before you throw them away.

Follow up with your teen's school administration to find out what they are doing to address issues of prescription and over-the-counter drug abuse in schools.

Most important of all, talk to your teen about the dangers of abusing Rx and OTC drugs. These are powerful drugs that, when abused, can be just as dangerous as street drugs. Tell your teen the risks far outweigh any "benefits."


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