Prescription drug abuse has reached epidemic levels not only in the United States but in…
Is Your Teen at Risk for Prescription Drug Abuse?
Prescription drug abuse is a serious problem for America’s youngsters, and it’s important to understand what puts an individual at risk for misusing medications. Parents of teens need to know about not only these risk factors, but also the protective factors. When you are aware of the problem, you can take steps to protect your child. Drug abuse is always a serious issue, but prescriptions are especially problematic. Teens often mistakenly believe that they are safer to abuse than illegal drugs, and most parents are unaware of the extent to which teens misuse prescriptions. Educate yourself so you can protect your teen.
Some risk factors for teens abusing prescriptions are the same for abuse of any drug, but there are also factors specific to prescription drugs. One of the most relevant risk factors is simply being a teenager. Being young is a strong risk factor for prescription drug abuse. Here are some other important risk factors:
- Peer pressure and social environment. Peer pressure is an important force in the lives of teens. They need to fit in with peers to some extent in order to meet their social needs, but they often go too far. Feeling pressure from peers to abuse prescriptions or just being around peers misusing drugs can be strong risk factors. Talk to your teen about their friends and how to combat peer pressure in risky situations.
- Perceived parent approval. A major risk factor for any kind of substance abuse in teens is a perception that their parents are fine with their actions. It is crucial that you clearly communicate your disapproval of any substance abuse. Teens need to hear, out loud, that drug abuse is not acceptable.
- Access to prescriptions. Teens tend to abuse whatever substances are close at hand. If you have prescriptions around the house that could be abused, or if your teen is prescribed one of these drugs, he is at a greater risk for drug abuse. Keep these medications locked up and oversee their administration to reduce access.
- Perception of harm. Teens who think that prescription drugs are safe to use, or at least low risk when compared to other drugs, are more likely to abuse them. This represents another opportunity to be very clear with your teen. Talk about how dangerous prescriptions can be, especially when abused.
To protect your teen from the potential harm of prescription drug abuse, you can help him avoid the risk factors, but you can also learn about protective factors. These are factors that make a teen less likely to abuse prescriptions. Communication about drugs and alcohol is a big one. Teens whose parents talk to them about drug abuse are less likely to experiment with drugs. Talk to your teen about prescriptions and make it clear that you expect him to resist the urge to abuse them, even in the face of peer pressure. Parental monitoring is also important. Know where your teen is, with whom he is spending his time and what he’s doing. Generally, having a strong bond with your child, being involved in his life and encouraging him to make good choices are all ways that you can influence his choices about prescription drug abuse.
If you think your teen has risk factors for prescription drug abuse, you are probably concerned. The good news is that risk factors do not guarantee abuse. You have the power to change the course and to influence your teen. You can help him learn to make good choices and avoid taking the risk of engaging in prescription drug abuse.