Guest opinion: Parents should be aware of prescription drug dangersAs a parent, you would probably say that your first goal is to raise happy, healthy and successful children. This involves, among many other things, keeping your children safe from drug use.
By: Andrew Van Dorn, The Farmington Independent
As a parent, you would probably say that your first goal is to raise happy, healthy and successful children. This involves, among many other things, keeping your children safe from drug use.
You can keep your son or daughter from staying out too late or running with the wrong crowd, but, in fact, one of the first places a child will be exposed to drug use is in the home, and the dealer is your own medicine cabinet. Aside from marijuana, prescription medications are the most commonly used drugs by teens to get high.
The act of obtaining a prescription drug without a prescription is known as “diversion,” which is illegal. The number of teens going into treatment for addiction to prescription pain relievers has increased by more than 300 percent between 1996 and 2006. Many factors contribute to the abuse of prescription drugs by teens, including availability, misguided beliefs about safety and examples set by the adults around them.
Every day in America 2,500 youth, ages 12 to 17, abuse a pain reliever for the very first time. Over 70 percent of these youth obtained the pain relievers from a friend or relative. This is directly connected to the fact that 3/4 of people, age 45 or older, take an average of four prescription medications daily. Because these drugs are readily available many teens believe they are a safe way to get high, but in reality they are running the risk of becoming addicted to a drug that they wouldn’t otherwise touch like cocaine, heroin or LSD. I recently had it explained to me like this: “oxy is oxy, but oxy is also heroin.”
In other words, Oxycontin is a prescription drug with a valid medicinal application, but when abused, Oxy-contin is simply heroin because it is an opium based drug. When taking a controlled substance, the brain changes both physically and functionally and can become dependent on a drug if it’s abused. Fortunately, the education of parents and the community about the real and present dangers of prescription drug abuse, coupled with minor life-style changes, can and will have a huge impact on the abuse of prescription drugs by teens.
There are many things a parent can do to protect their children from abusing prescription drugs.
• Educate yourself at sites such as awarerx.org, revealingaddiction.com, drugfree.org, dakotacounty.us/sheriff or sumn.org
• Educate your children on the risks of prescription medications. Break the myth that because they’re doctor prescribed they are inherently safe.
• Help them realize prescription drugs are intended for the person they are prescribed to, under the circumstances for which they are prescribed
• Avoid taking your prescription pills in front of your children
• Do not self diagnose or self prescribe
• Secure your prescription drugs
• Discard your prescription drugs when you no longer need them
Educating yourself and your family is the first step to curbing the prescription drug problem in our community. Another easy but important step is locking up your prescription drugs. It has been said, “Having unsecured prescription drugs is as dangerous as having a loaded gun in your home.” The reality is prescription drugs can be deadly if used improperly; remember celebrities Marilyn Monroe, Bruce Lee, Elvis Presley, John Belushi and Heath Ledger (to name a few) all died from the misuse of prescription drugs, which isn’t to mention the thousands of average citizens who die annually. Lastly, discard your prescription drugs when you no longer need them. Far too often people hold on to prescription drugs for future use, but remember, prescription drugs should only be used under specific orders from a doctor.
Discarding prescription drugs has become easier as there are now several local 24/7 collection sites, including one at the Dakota County Sheriff’s office, 1580 Highway 55, Hastings. The phone number there is 651-438-4710
There is another dropoff site at the Burnsville Police Department, 100 Civic Center Parkway, Burnsville. The phone number there is 952-895-4600
I encourage all families to take a little time to become educated about the dangers of prescription drug misuse. A short conversation with your children about expectations may have a huge impact on their feelings about prescription drug abuse. Please take the time to collect and properly dispose of any old medications at one of the facilities listed above. Thank you for your efforts in bettering our community and protecting our youth. I encourage you to contact me if you have any questions.
Andrew Van Dorn is a Farmington police officer and the school liaison officer at Boeckman Middle School.