The Medicine Abuse Project is being launched this week by a coalition of public-health, public-safety, governmental and private-sector organizations. The Project is a response to the past decade’s sharp increase in medicine abuse – including among teenagers. Overdose from prescription drugs is now more common than overdose from heroin and cocaine combined. And medication abuse carries a high risk of addiction, particularly in the teenage years, a period of significant neuroplasticity in brain development.
What can be done to reduce the prevalence of prescription medicine misuse among teens? The Medicine Abuse Project suggests two important strategies:
- Secure your medicine cabinet. In many American homes, parents keep the liquor cabinet locked, but leave potentially dangerous medicines in an unlocked cabinet to which their children have easy access. Survey research shows that this is a far more common source of abused medicines than is the stereotypical “street corner” drug dealer.
- Participate in National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day this September 29. Take-Back Days, which are coordinated by the Drug Enforcement Agency, allow anyone to drop off leftover, expired and/or unwanted prescription medications with no questions asked. The most recent take back day resulted in the disposal of an astounding 276 tons of medication.
In addition to these two steps, parents can also do more to educate themselves and their children about the dangers of abusing medicine. For example, while almost all parents would agree that heroin (an illegal opioid) is dangerous and would not want their children using it, many of these same parents are unaware that prescription opioids such as Oxycodone can be just as dangerous. Indeed, parents may worry about the wrong thing: An American 12th-grader is more than 10 times as likely to abuse prescription opioids than they are to abuse heroin.
To get involved and learn more visit the Medicine Abuse Project’s website.
Addiction expert Keith Humphreys, PhD, is a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford and a career research scientist at the Palo Alto VA. He recently completed a one-year stint as a senior advisor in the Office of National Drug Control Policy in Washington.
Previously: Examining how addiction in the U.S. has changed over the last decade, Turn in your old pills on April 28, Governors to Congress: Help us fight prescription-drug abuse and How to combat prescription-drug abuse
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