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Teaching Parents and Youth About Prescription Drug Abuse

A few months ago I attended a forum conducted by county government officials and retired members of the DEA. The auditorium where it was held was packed with eager parents and young children. They were fully attentive and ready to learn something about the opiate epidemic claiming lives in their community. Most were there for preventative measures to be prepared for when their children get older.  As I looked around the room, I could tell who was there for their lost child. You can see the moms with bags under their eyes on the verge of crying from worry and the father's who sit alongside feeling powerless to the grasp that drugs have over their child.

I was very excited to hear what the presentation had to offer and thought it was a fantastic opportunity for the community to learn about the devastating issues facing their town. To say I was upset, would be an understatement. Now don't get me wrong, they tried to teach and inform the audience, I just believe their delivery and aim was completely off.

When it comes to educating our young teens and their parents about the dangers of opiates, we must NOT go directly to heroin education. People understand that heroin is bad. It has been drilled into the heads of everyone from a young age. Heroin has always been labeled as a drug to “never try.” The main culprit here is prescription painkillers.

I wanted desperately to stand up in my seat the second a “Drug Free” commercial was played on the screen and ask about prescription painkillers. Painkillers are what lead our children to heroin. That is the first step in the issue communities are facing across the country. Teach the parents about the dangers of pain pills first. Most teens get their pills from a medicine in their own home or relatives. They share the pills with friends and slowly develop a habit. Before long, they are addicted to the pills and are too afraid to say anything to their parents. Valuables and money start to go missing from the home, so that they can afford their addiction.

Parents need to be educated on warning signs that prescription pills are being abused. It is a hard thing to catch because most of the signs are being distant, secretive and tired all the time. Most teens act this way anyway. But if you notice your child is not acting like themselves and you suspect something, ask them what is going on. Be very open and supportive and let them know that they can always come to you no matter how bad they think their problems may be.

Leave that door open for them to cross if and when they are ready to. If you find any pills in their possession, for example while you are doing laundry, look the pills up online. Each prescription pill in the United States is stamped with a unique code or logo. Take the pill and go to Drugs.com. Click on the tab labeled, “pill identifier.” They will ask you questions about the marks, shape and color of the pill. The results will show pictures and what the pills are. Immediately confront your child if you find it to be something they should not have. Never wait for the “right time” to talk with them about an issue like this. One pill in the wrong hands can easily end in death. Treat this matter like a life or death situation, because that is exactly what it is.

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