Protect Your Children from Prescription Drug Abuse This Holiday Season

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Those of you who have been following my blog for a while might remember an interview I did with Dr. Catizone about prescription drug abuse.  I recently had the opportunity to talk with him again, and I wanted to share the results with you.  Prescription drug awareness is something I support 110%!  I have seen firsthand what it can do to a person, their family, and anyone else in their lives.  I have seen it take lives, and awareness is the only way we can protect our youth from this horrible addiction!  We MUST take a stand and educate our youth - Protect Your Children from Prescription Drug Abuse This Holiday Season!

Before we get started I wanted to say thank you to Dr. Catizone for taking the time to answer a few questions!

AWAReX Logo Black Protect Your Children from Prescription Drug Abuse This Holiday SeasonProtect Your Children from Prescription Drug Abuse This Holiday Season

  1. What are some things parents can do to help their children see, and fully understand the risks that come with prescription drug use? I know this can be hard especially for those of us with teens who don’t think their parents know what they are talking about.


As your question implies, talking with children about the serious dangers of prescription drug abuse is important and has been shown to make an impact. Studies show that kids who learn at home about the risks of drug abuse are up to 50% less likely to abuse drugs. Some teens believe that misusing prescription drugs is safer than using illicit or “street” drugs such as heroin. For example, according to the 2012 Monitoring the Future Survey, less than 36% of 8th grade students see occasional nonmedical use of Vicodin® or OxyContin® as a great risk. However, most 8th grade students perceive regular marijuana use and occasional heroin use as a great risk. AWARXE encourages parents to let teens know that abusing prescription drugs is very dangerous and can lead to hospitalization and even death.

There are many resources on AWARERX.ORG that can help initiate conversations with your children. For teens, a video recommended by AWARXE, called The Road to Nowhere, tells the story of a teen who experimented with prescription drugs at a party and became addicted to the drugs. A link to the video is available on the AWARXE Get Local Oklahoma page ( Also, the AWARXE Student ( page includes resources for elementary school students, as well as for middle school and high school students.

  1. What are commonly abused prescription drugs in teen and young adults?

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the most commonly abused prescription drugs among twelfth graders were opioid pain relievers such as Vicodin® and OxyContin®, stimulants for treating Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder such as Adderall® and Ritalin®, and central nervous system depressants such as Valium® and Xanax®.

Surveys conducted periodically by government agencies and private entities also reveal how teens are getting the drugs, and attitudes regarding prescription drug abuse. Over 67% of 12th graders who abused prescription narcotics, such as Vicodin or OxyContin, were given the drugs by a friend or relative, according to NIDA’s 2012 Monitoring the Future Survey (

Also of note for concern, nearly a third of parents say they believe prescription stimulants can improve a teen’s academic performance, even if he or she does not have a learning disability, as reported in the 2012 Partnership Attitude Tracking Study ( The same study showed that one in eight teens have taken stimulants like Ridilin® and Adderal® when it was not prescribed for them.

  1. What are things we can do to prevent our prescriptions from getting into the wrong hands this holiday season?

In addition to talking with their children about prescription drug abuse dangers, parents should securely store all medications in the household. For example, lock your medications in a secure cabinet or a medicine safe. You should be particularly careful to securely store controlled substance prescription drugs, such as certain pain medications and ADHD medications. Remember that sometimes prescription drugs are taken out of medicine cabinets by visitors to the home, such as a teen’s guests.

You may also wish to keep track of the number of pills left in the bottle.

Finally, if you have medications in your home that are no longer needed or expired, AWARXE encourages you to dispose of it at a local medication disposal program. The Get Local ( section on the AWARXE Web site provides medication disposal drop box locations in almost every state. Generally, police stations may accept controlled substance prescription drugs (such as certain pain medications), and community and pharmacy drop box programs may accept all other

drugs. Using the links and information on the AWARXE site, contact the medication collection program near you for details and hours of operation.

If there are no drug disposal sites near you, there are options for disposing of drugs at home. The information that comes with your prescription may provide instructions on home disposal. Only some medications should be flushed down the toilet and the US Food and Drug Administration has a list of these drugs on its Web site. If there are no instructions for disposal you can throw the drugs in your home garbage. But first, take them out of the container and mix them with an undesirable substance like coffee grounds or cat litter. Seal the mixture in a sealable bag, empty can, or other container that can be disposed of in the garbage. More information about safe drug disposal is available on the AWARXE Medication Disposal page.

Parents can also follow general poison prevention guidelines to help protect very young children from accidental ingestion and experimentation with prescription drugs. For example, never call medicine “candy” to entice a child to take it.

Also, parents should start teaching children to never take a medication without approved adult supervision. Children can be educated that taking the wrong kind of medicine or too much medicine could make them very sick. More generally, parents can teach children to never put anything in their mouth if they are not sure that it is safe to eat.

The video “STOP! Ask First” from the American Association of Poison Control Centers is a useful tool for educating young children on this issue. The video can be found on the Student page of the AWARXE Web site.

Modeling safe medication use for children can also help. There are numerous tips for safely administering medications to children on the Safety Tips for Children page of the AWARXE Web site.

  1. Does prescription drug usage go up during the holidays? Do families become more affected?

Very good question – while we’re not aware of any studies correlating an increase in prescription drug abuse with the holiday season, studies show that the holidays can be a

source of stress and anxiety for many people. Also, acute and chronic stress can lead to substance abuse ( in vulnerable people and increase the risk of relapse for recovering addicts. In addition, teens have indicated that stress is one reason for misusing prescription drugs. A WebMD article ( on the common causes of holiday anxiety features tips to help people manage holiday-related stress and depression and may be helpful.

In addition, with holiday get-togethers bringing family, friends, and other guests together, AWARXE encourages the secure storage of needed medications to protect all visitors from misuse, abuse, and accidental ingestion. Leaving medications in the medicine cabinet or out on counters or other easily accessible areas can put young children at risk for accidental ingestion. In fact, an increasing number of children under age five were seen in emergency departments due to medication poisoning from 2001 to 2008, and child self-exposure to prescription products accounted for 55% of these emergency room visits. Securely storing medications also prevents them from falling into the hands of those looking to misuse the drugs.

  1. Should parents be open and honest with their children about a family member or close friend who is or has been addicted to prescription painkillers?

As noted above, AWARXE strongly encourages talking to children and teens to make them aware of the serious risks of abusing prescription drugs. While AWARXE does not make a specific recommendations as to when or how parents talk to their children and teens about these important issues, AWARXE supports parents by providing information and numerous resources on the AWARXE Web site. In addition to the Road to Nowhere video, and the AWARXE Student page noted above, parents may wish to have their teens visit PEERx (, a NIDA Web site that educates children ages 11 through 15 (as well as their parents and teachers) on the science behind prescription drug abuse and treatment. PEERx includes online interactive activities geared specifically toward teens. Finally, family health care providers, such as your child’s doctor and your pharmacist, as well as school guidance counselors can be an excellent resource for information and support.

Links for cited Sources and Web pages:

* 2012 Monitoring the Future Survey: * AWARXE Get Local Oklahoma Page: * AWARXE Students Page:

* The Road to Nowhere: Prescription Drug Abuse (Slideshow): * 2012 Partnership Attitude Drug Tracking Study: * AWARXE Get Local: * AWARXE Find Disposal Information: WWW.AWARERX.ORG/get-informed/find-disposal-information. * AWARXE Safety Tips for Children:

* “Chronic Stress, Drug Use, and Vulnerability to Addiction,” Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences (October 2008):

* “Home for the Holidays: Tips for Overcoming Holiday Anxiety and Stress,” WebMD Stress Management Health Center:

* Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, “Results from the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health” (September 2013):

8x10pressready NOborder 791x1024 Protect Your Children from Prescription Drug Abuse This Holiday SeasonBio

Carmen A. Catizone, MS, RPh, DPh, is the Executive Director of the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy® (NABP®) and the Secretary of the Association’s Executive Committee. He currently serves as a Governor of the Pharmacy Technician Certification Board (PTCB) Board of Directors and Chair of the PTCB Certification Council. He is a Past President of the National Pharmacy Manpower Project and the National Conference of Pharmaceutical Organizations as well as a past member of the United States Pharmacopeia (USP) Board of Directors. He has also

acted as a reviewer on several advisory boards and has provided expert witness testimony and consultation in the areas of pharmacy practice and regulation.

AWARXE® is a consumer protection program provided by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy Foundation®. Founded in 1904, the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy is an impartial professional organization that supports the state boards of pharmacy in creating uniform regulations to protect public health.

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  1. Jo-Ann Brightman says

    Very good tips and I never realized how badly informed so many kids were abut this problem. Thank goodness my kids never had this problem. Thanks for all the links.

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