Take Action: Parents

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Parents: You Can Make A Difference Right Now

Parents can play a vital role in safeguarding children through good communication, paying attention and observing changes in behavior, and offering steady love and support. Start today by having a conversation with your child about prescription drug abuse and misuse.

Be Aware

1 in 6 parents mistakenly believe that using prescription drugs to get high is safer than using street drugs.

There are a number of steps you can take immediately to be more aware of the prescription drugs in your home.

  • Know What's in Your Cabinet - Make a list of all of the prescription drugs in your home and monitor the quantities of pills in each bottle. If you notice that the number of pills has gone down or you have to refill the prescription more frequently, there might be a problem in your household.
  • Educate Friends and Relatives - Talk to your friends, relatives (especially grandparents) and other parents about teen prescription drug abuse. Encourage them to keep track of the contents in their medicine cabinets.
  • Control Access - If a doctor has prescribed a medication for your teen to take for a legitimate health condition, make sure that you are in control of the bottle and give the medication to your child as needed. Do not let your teen keep the bottle in his or her room. Make it clear that prescription medications are not to be shared.

Create a Safe Environment

73% of teens say they can easily obtain prescription drugs from their parents' medicine cabinet.

Do not let your children have any access to prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) medications in your home.

  • Remove from the Medicine Cabinet - Remove all prescription and OTC drugs from your medicine cabinet. Keep them safe and secure in a place your teen does not know about.
  • Find a Safe Storage Location - Consider keeping the prescription and OTC medications in a locked cabinet or another safe location.
  • Educate Friends and Relatives - Remind relatives, grandparents and parents of your teenager's friends to remove medications from their cabinets and store them in a secure place.

Dispose of Unused Medicines

17% of parents report they do not throw away expired prescriptions.

Many of us keep expired or unused prescription medications sitting in our medicine cabinets for months, even years. An important and easy step you can take to protect your teen is to appropriately dispose of unused prescription medications.

  • Don't Flush - Do not flush prescription drugs down the toilet unless the disposal instructions specify to.
  • Remove Personal Information - Before throwing out any unused medication, remove personal information from the bottle. That means take off the label, or scratch out personal information to make it unreadable. This will help to protect your identity and help ensure that no one tries to refill a medication that was not prescribed specifically for them.
  • Do Not Share Medications - It is dangerous to give unused medications to friends for their use. Doctors prescribe medications for a person dependent on their individual medical needs and history.
  • Dispose Properly - To safeguard teens and pets, take pills out of their original container and mix them with an undesirable substance such as kitty litter or coffee grounds. Sometimes teens will search the garbage can for prescription drugs. This step will help discourage that behavior. Put this mixture into a sealed bag or empty can and dispose into the garbage.

For more information about proper disposal of unused medicines, download the Federal Drug Administration's How to Dispose of Unused Medicines Guide.

Notice Changes in Your Teen

Teens who report that their parents show concern for them and are monitoring their behaviors are less likely to engage in substance abuse.

Even though you may have a busy schedule, try to talk to and spend time with your teen as often as possible. This may make it easier to notice if your teen is exhibiting any physical or behavioral changes that could indicate prescription drug abuse.

Signs and Symptoms of Prescription Drug Abuse

Painkillers (opioids)
Physical (effect on the body)

  • Slowed physical activity
  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Sedation
  • Itching
  • Sweating, clammy skin
  • Smaller pupils (constriction)
  • Flushed skin on face and neck
  • Constipation, nausea, vomiting
  • Slowed breathing

Psychological (effect on the mind)

  • Drowsiness
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Depression
  • Confusion
  • Apathy

Physical (effect on the body)

  • Slurred speech
  • Loss of motor coordination
  • Weakness
  • Headache
  • Lightheadedness
  • Blurred vision
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Lowered blood pressure
  • Slowed breathing
  • Sedation/sleepiness
  • Enlarged pupils (dilated)

Psychological (effect on the mind)

  • Amnesia (no memory of events while under the influence)
  • Reduction in reaction time
  • Impaired mental functioning and judgment
  • Confusion
  • Drowsiness
  • Poor concentration
  • Lowered inhibitions
  • Irritability

Physical (effect on the body)

  • Reduced appetite
  • Dizziness
  • Tremors
  • Headache
  • Flushed skin
  • Chest pain with palpitations
  • Excessive sweating
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Enlarged pupils (dilated)
  • Loss of coordination
  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased respiratory rate (rapid breathing)
  • Increase or decrease in blood pressure
  • Seizures, heart attack, or stroke

Psychological (effect on the mind)

  • Agitation, hostility, aggression
  • Panic
  • Irritability
  • Impulsive behavior
  • Insomnia, restlessness
  • Suicidal or homicidal tendencies
  • Paranoia, sometimes accompanied by both auditory and visual hallucinations
  • Nervousness/anxiousness

Talk to Your Teen

Teens are less likely to use substances, if they have learned a lot about the risks of drug use from their parents or schools.

Parents can play an influential role in guiding the choices their teens make. In fact, research shows that teens who learn a lot about the risks of drugs from their parents are less likely to use drugs.

  • Share the Facts - Let your teen know that, despite what they might believe, taking prescription drugs to get high is not safer than using illegal drugs and can be just as dangerous. Talk to them about the risks of abusing prescription drugs and how abusing prescription drugs can affect the brain and social development.
  • Be Open - Even if you are afraid of what you might learn, tell your teen that they can always talk to you about anything — without judgment. If your teen believes that you'll be compassionate, he or she may be more likely to turn to you for support.
  • Take Control - Starting a conversation with your kids and keeping lines of communication open is never easy — but it's also not as difficult as you may think. Make the smart choice and start talking now.

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