Prescription Drugs Use and Children
The Medicines We Take and What It Teaches Children
Whether it is over the counter drugs or prescription medications, as a society, we have become dependent on pharmaceuticals to cure our ailments. There seems to be a pill for just about everything. We seek relief from pain and discomfort so that we can function and get more things done. The pharmaceutical Industry reaps in billions of dollars from the sale of legal drugs. We are inundated with advertisements for medications. Tylenol and Advil, pain killers, cholesterol medication, anti anxiety prescriptions, heartburn medications, and so on fill the medicine cabinets around the globe. We give our children ADHD drugs, anti depressants, and everyday OTC medications to cure their ailments also. Our children see what is in our medicine cabinets, run errands with us to the pharmacy, and see the plethora of ads on tv too.
Kids Notice Everything We Do
What is the message we are sending our children? How do these impact the thoughts and future decisions children will make about their own health care? And how is this contributing to the epidemic of legal drug abuse?
Kids notice everything. It is important to teach them that there are effects from everything we put into our bodies. It is important to give our children coping skills that will help them function well in good and bad times. It is important to teach them that a quick fix is not always the answer. It is also important that as parents, we are cognizant about what we are doing and the example we are setting for our children. We give our children drugs for anxiety, ADHD, depression, just to name a few. Some of these drugs in our households are being sold on the street to give kids quick fixes for other reasons. Legal drug abuse is a real problem.
Talk to Your Kids About Prescription Drug Abuse
In a recent national survey, almost ⅓ of those who were 12 years old and older began using prescription drugs that were not prescribed for them. The CDC (Center for Disease Control) states that prescription drug overdose is at national epidemic proportions.
87 percent of prescription drug abusers state that they got their their drugs from a family member, a friend, dealer Although many have said medical exposure was an early experience of liking a drug.
Young children might be mimicking their parents, or think drugs are candy. Teens need to know that all drugs have side effects. College students are using Ridalin that has not been prescribed for them because it keeps them more alert and gets them higher grades during midterms and finals. Do these kids realize the detrimental effects this may have on their bodies, if not for the short term, what about the longer term?
Look for Teachable Moments to Talk to Your Kids
One of the best defenses against this epidemic is through education. Education starts at home.
With children, we get opportunities for teachable moments. It may a good idea to take such an opportunity to engage them in a discussion about the appropriate use of prescription drugs and the dangers of overuse.
- talk about diet - what we eat is the best source for sufficient vitamins and minerals and the reasons you may be giving them other supplements.
- teach them that medication is not candy - it is not good to take something unless there is a good reason for it.
- teach them not to take anything from other adults and peers - it is important to be aware of the cautions of drugs and drugs are not something to be shared.
- teach them that there are dangers to mixing drugs unless a doctor knows about it.
- be a good example - be aware of what you are taking, how often and why. If you easily reach for pain medication or an OTC fix for your cold, realize your child is watching and listening to you even when you are not aware they are.
- teach your kids to be thinkers about what they see, read and hear on tv,radio, the internet, magazines, newspapers. The attraction to feeling better, upping their performance, and improving themselves is all around them.
These are important discusssions to have with your child. According to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, there has been a dramatic rise in emergency room visits and children admitted to hospitals recently due to the unintentional overdose of medication kids have taken. Most of the cause of this was the easy exposure to prescriptions drugs.
Give Your Kids Good Coping Skills and Model Them Yourself
Research has shown that the best way to head off drug abuse is in helping kids regulate their feelings and giving them good coping skills. They need to be educated that addiction can easily happen with prescription and illegal drugs and that drugs should never be mixed with alcohol. As adults we need to be conscientious about how we discard our drugs. Just throwing them in the garbage may be an invitation to having them sold on the street. There are “Take Back” programs the DEA and pharmacies hold regularly across the country.
Teaching kids to be resilient and giving them strategies to process the emotions that happen to them will help them find comfort in healthy ways. Drug abuse becomes a form of self soothing, when there is no other tools we have. Teach your kids to talk to trusted adults, and mature friends. Encourage them to write in a journal to express their feelings. Getting involved in team sports or playing musical instruments, or just playing ball with friends can fill help expend some of the negative energy they are feeling Teach your children to think, to problem solve, to not be afraid of confronting their feelings. Kids carry burdens we may not be aware of, never assume youth means carefree. Allow your kids to express themselves. Make sure you are actively listening to them. They need your attention. Give them a safe place to express themselves. Encourage them to be creative. Involve therapists or school counselors if you feel it is needed. Encourage your kids to laugh to take time for themselves, and to get to know themselves. Let them be comfortable with themselves. Encourage confidence and build their self esteem at every opportunity. A little praise from you will go a long way with them. And most importantly, we need to model good coping skills for our children.
We can never eradicate drug abuse, and we may not be able to stop this epidemic. But by talking to our children, we might just make a bigger difference than we may ever know.