Alcohol, Over-the Counter and Prescription Drugs: What Parents Should Know

     The teenage years are full of new adventures, self discovery and personal growth. It is an exciting time for young people but can be anxiety producing for parents! It is during these years that young people are often faced with difficult decisions around risky behaviors, particularly alcohol and drug use. Though most young people do not participate in the consumption of drugs and alcohol, you as a parent should know the signs, symptoms and most importantly, talking points for your child.
     According to the 2009 Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) approximately 19% of Manchester high school youth report using prescription drugs without a prescription at some point in their lifetime. About 10% of high school youth report using over-the-counter (otc) drugs, for their non intended purpose, at some point in their lifetime. OTC drugs are medications that are available at supermarkets and drug stores, often used to treat colds, coughs and flu symptoms. The active ingredient is dextromethorphan (DXM) and in large doses can produce a “high” feeling. The dangerous effects of abuse include memory loss, panic attacks, vomiting, seizures, addiction, and even death. Fortunately, most of these products are now behind the counter at most stores and can’t be purchased in large quantities. However, these products are available in many medicine cabinets and online. The same is the case for prescription drugs. Often young people find these drugs, such as Adderall, Ritalin and narcotic pain meds, in medicine cabinets or at their friends’ homes. Many times it is ones own medication that can be abused. Know how much medication your child has and know what is in your medicine cabinet. You can also put a lock on the medicine cabinet or store these medications in a less accessible location within your home.
     Alcohol is the most common drug of abuse among teens with 66% of students reporting having at least one drink of alcohol within their lifetime (2009 YRBS). We have strict enforcement and not too many stores selling to underage youth. So where are youth getting alcohol? The answer is simple. Youth get alcohol from their own homes and from other siblings and friends. Most parents would never think of promoting the use of alcohol in their own home, however, ask your child if he/she knows where the alcohol is within the house and most likely, the answer is yes.  
     If you’re a parent, know how much alcohol you have in the house and if you’re leaving on a trip, remove the alcohol from your home. Also, talk to your older sons/ daughters about the dangers and potential legal ramifications of providing alcohol to their younger siblings. To dispose of prescription and over-the-counter drugs, contact your local pharmacy or healthcare provider. Simply throwing away causes further safety hazards and flushing down the toilet has created environmental concerns in many communities. Most importantly, talk to your children about drugs and alcohol. Though you may not feel it at times, you are the biggest influence on their life and the decisions they make. You make a difference!
     For more information on substance abuse and how to talk to your child, please visit www.theanitdrug.com or call the Makin’ It Happen Coalition at 622-6116
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