What Parents Should Know about Prescription Drug Abuse | Your Teen’s Health Podcast Series #4

Posted on Sep 12th 2014 by Kate Warnock

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Here’s a statistic that is shocking and scary for any parent with a child at home: every day, an average of 2,000 teenagers use prescription drugs for non-medical reasons for the first time. The National Institute for Drug Abuse also reports that many teens can easily find these drugs just by searching the medicine cabinets at their own or a friend’s home. Sadly, many teens believe that prescription drugs are safer than street drugs and may not realize that they can be as deadly as unregulated substances. A parent’s or guardian’s role in protecting teens from prescription drug abuse cannot be overstated.  Florida Blue’s Senior Medical Director Carmella Sebastian, M.D., shares her advice on what parents can do in our fourth podcast in our Teen’s Health series. Take nine minutes to listen to it now:   http://www.brainshark.com/bcbsf/podcast/881289471.mp3   The start of the school year is an excellent time to talk with your teen, not just about drug abuse, but about other health concerns like car safety and smoking. Be sure to listen to our full series on Your Teen’s Health made expressly for parents for tested advice from Dr. Sebastian, a mother of two young adult daughters.   The complete transcription of the podcast begins here: Welcome to Florida Blue Radio where we explore health care topics important to you. Whether you run a business, are a health practitioner, or an individual interested in how health care is evolving, experts from across Florida Blue will keep you in the know. In today's session, we begin our series on teen health with Florida Blue's Senior Medical Director, Doctor Carmella Sebastian. Doctor Sebastian will share information on the most common health issues concerning our teams and empower parents with ways to talk to their teens about them. Our host is Kate Warnock, Social Business Strategist, at Florida Blue. Now, here's Kate. So we're back today with Doctor Carmella Sebastian, continuing our series on teenage health and wellness. And today, we're picking up where we left off in our last conversation around smoking. Today, we're picking up with a prescription drug abuse. And there's definitely a correlation. Doctor Sebastian has shared with us between children who might start smoking at an early age-- it's almost like a gateway drug to trying more recreational drugs down the road. So with that, Doctor Sebastian, what can you tell us about prescription drug abuse, drug abuse in general, and how we can keep our teenagers healthy? Well, everyday in the United States, an average of about 2,000 teenagers use prescription drugs without a doctor's guidance for the first time. Among youth who are 12 to 17 years old, about 15% of high schoolers report past year non-medical use of prescription medication. That's staggering-- 15% and as young as 12. 15%. Yeah. There's various places that they're getting them. They can get them on the streets. But ordinarily, the person who's selling them the drugs on the street is getting them from their own parents' or even more likely grandparents' medication cabinet. So this is a real, real dangerous situation. And there's been other surveys. There was a survey in 2012 that found that prescription and over-the-counter drugs are among the most commonly abused drug by 12th graders after alcohol, marijuana, and a synthetic marijuana, which is used today, which I had to look up myself when someone told me about it, called spice. It's synthetic marijuana and tobacco. So after you smoke the cigarette, you have a drink of alcohol. And you might have tried pot, then you're getting prescription medications usually out of a family member's prescription bottle. So Doctor Sebastian, one thing that I've seen in print is that sometimes teenagers think that these drugs that they're getting out of their families' medicine cabinets are actually safer, because their prescription. They're manufactured according to the right controls and everything of an actual drug producer versus buying something off the street in an unmarked bag or something like that. So is it true then that that halo effect that these drugs might have is really tricking kids into thinking that this will have less of a harmful effect on their bodies than something that they're buying off the street? Well, that's definitely an issue. There's no doubt about it. However, in most cases, parents and grandparents are not freely giving these types of medications. And they're being sneaked by the kids. So I do believe that the kids know that they're going to get a particular type of feeling from them. And so usually kids aren't very worried about the whole safety issue anyway, because they think they're going to live forever. And when you look at the most commonly abused prescription drugs in this group, you're looking at things that are really very powerful like OxyContin and Vicodin-- very, very strong pain relievers. I remember just a little aside when I was in residency, I had terrible migraines. And I've always been very sensitive to medication. And I remember I was covering the intensive care unit and I was seeing a doctor for my migraines a neurologist, and they told me to try Darvocet, which is not even half of an OxyContin or a Vicodin. And I tried the Darvocet. And I was sitting there talking with someone, and they said, do you know you're being paged? I did not even recognize my name. That's how strong it was. I'm very sensitive to medications. And I've always been that way. And younger people are always going to be more apt to be affected by these medications-- other ones-- Xanax, Valium. Stimulants have really come under a lot of use lately, because of the increase in ADHD, and the prescriptions for ADHD medications like Concerta and Adderall. And kids are getting their hands on these. So it's very, very dangerous. The other thing is those are the prescription drugs. There's also over the counter drugs that are being abused. And one of the most common ones is Dextromethorphan, which is in cough suppressant. And kids get that-- and there's also a little alcohol in the cough suppressant in some of them. So in order to actually get a feeling from them, you have to take a large doses of it, and that is potentially very, very dangerous. But those are other drugs that they're starting to abuse quite a bit. So Doctor Sebastian then, help us with, how do parents keep their teenagers safe, if they have someone in the family who might have these kind of prescription medications-- what do you suggest they do to limit that temptation and make sure that they're aware of this problem? Right, first of all, never give your children prescription medication that's been prescribed for you for your particular issue, even if you know your child-- let's say my child also had a migraine. Don't do that. Teach them about any kind of over the counter medication you're giving them. Make sure that your dangerous types of prescription medication, which can be dangerous. But things like an antibiotic might not be as desirable to a kid, because you're not going to get a buzz from that. So the ones that can give you a high or a low, or relax you or whatever, keep them locked away. Keep them in a safe place. Also know that if the children are going over to your parents or to another family member's, you want to make sure that you're having that same control in that house, and you're having those medications out of their reach. I think talking with your kids is the most important thing. And I find that with all of these subjects that we've been going over, any kind of discussion can alleviate a lot of issues. Don't be afraid to talk with your kids, because they're already being talked to at school from their peers, from teachers, from potentially dangerous people. So you start the conversation and tell them really how to be safe. All right. All great advice. So thank you again today, Doctor Sebastian, for this session in our teen health series. And I look forward to talking to you in our next episode. Great. Thank you so much. You've been listening to Florida Blue Radio, recorded at our Jacksonville headquarters. For notes from today's program, visit our blog at floridablue.com. Be sure to leave us a comment there with your ideas or suggestions for future program. Until next time, here's to you and your pursuit of health.

Filed under: Healthy Living  

Kate Warnock

Kate Warnock is a member of the Florida Blue social media team and has loved being at the forefront of the social wave @FLBlue. A marketer with ten years’ experience, Kate is also a wife and mom to two children. When not at work, you’ll find Kate listening to NPR, reading The New Yorker and Cooking Light, and arriving two minutes late to yoga class.

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