No child has dreams about one day becoming a drug addict. No parent dreams of his or her child becoming a drug addict. In theory, by the time children reach their middle school years, they should likely know and understand the risk of taking drugs and how making the kinds of choices that involve drugs can be extremely dangerous. However, there are still quite a few young people who develop a teenage pain pill addiction despite their knowledge.
National Study About Teenage Pain Pill Addiction
In 2012, researchers from the Partnership for a Drug Free America published a study called the Partnership Attitude Tracking Study. The purpose of this study was to find out why kids turn to opiate drugs. Sponsored by the MetLife Foundation and The Partnership for a Drug Free America, the research team spoke to 7216 young people between 2008 and 2012 in 7th through 12th grades. These students were asked a varied of questions in relationship to their reasons for taking and abusing opiate pain medications.
Overwhelmingly, the reasons that teenage pain pill addiction occurs boils down to three categories:
1. A perception that opiate pain medications were safer than other kinds of drugs
2. The ease with which they are obtained
3. The reduced risk of consequences including legal issues
Some of the specific responses indicated that opiate pain pills were easy to obtain from family medicine cabinets, friend’s prescriptions, and on the internet. The young people surveyed also indicated that there was less stigma attached to abusing opiate pain medications and that the relatively low cost was a motivator to use them than the other available options.
Preventing Teenagers From Abusing Opiates
Prevention of this kind of behavior generally comes down to awareness. The people around the teen, including other friends, parents, guardians, and teachers, can be the first line of defense when it comes to preventing and catching the abuse of opiate pain medications. There are a few things that outside parties can do in relationship to each of the most popular use categories to help with the prevention of opiate pain medication abuse.
1. Make Dangers Clear
According to the Partnership for a Drug Free America, 14,800 people died of prescription medication overdoses in 2008. That is more overdose deaths than from heroin and cocaine combined. In 2009, prescription drug abuse accounted for 475,000 emergency room visits. Communicating these statistics and others relating to the dangers of abusing opiate pain medications may help to keep your teen away from them. The perception that they are less of a threat than the average street drug is very dangerous to the safety to any teenage drug user.
2. Fight Availability
Teens are not always going to listen when adults tell them how dangerous something is. It is in the nature of a teenager to think that adults do not really know anything. Knowing what your family has in the medicine cabinet is your first line of defense. If you know what you have and check on it regularly, than you are going to notice if something goes missing. Ask other people you know to do the same. Encourage vigilance in your family and friends, not only for the sake of your teen, but for any others. Sometimes a simple lock is all it takes to keep an honest person honest. The same is true for potential drug use. Someone who is really motivated to get to your prescriptions is going to find a way, but if they are less available and it is slightly more difficult to get to them, it might be enough.
3. Communicate Consequences
You need to know and be able to enforce the rules you have set up for your teen, and that means following through when he or she does something that you deem unacceptable. If your teen is found to be abusing opiate prescription pain medications, particularly if the prescription does not belong to him or her, you need follow through. The first step should have happened long before this even becomes a problem. Sit your teen down and have a conversation about the consequences of illegal drug use within your family and within the context of illegal activity. Be sure that your teen understand that there are serious legal ramifications for the possession of diverted prescription medications. The penalties for diverted prescriptions are far greater than for things like possession of marijuana.