Know! How Pop Culture Influences

In the previous Know! Tip, we asked parents and other caregivers to think about the way they use medicine, keeping in mind that their children are watching and learning, that household norms are being created and that children’s choices regarding appropriate and responsible use of medicine (in the present and down the road) are being strongly influenced.

In this Tip, we take a look at how pop culture misleads youth when it comes to attitudes and beliefs surrounding prescription drugs. Parents may be doing all the right things at home, but we still have the outside world to contend with, where our kids are likely getting very different messages.

Picture this: Amanda, a young teenage girl, is self-conscious about her weight. She decides to sneak some of her brother’s ADHD meds after a friend at school told her that weight loss is a side effect of the drug, and that several other girls had tired it and it worked. Amanda isn’t worried about the drug’s safety because not only was this medicine prescribed to her younger brother by their family doctor, but she also saw an ad on TV that showed the many benefits of this drug. She rationalizes that a prescription medication like this is a lot better than turning to dangerous diet pills, and that it is nothing like taking illegal street drugs.

What’s wrong with this picture? Just about everything.

Medicine misuse/abuse among youth has reached epidemic levels in our country, with a reported 2,500 teens using prescription drugs without a doctor's guidance for the first time every day.

There are many contributing factors to this dramatic increase. The five listed below are ones that often-times play a key role, like in the all-too-common scenario with Amanda.

  1. Children and adults are bombarded by drug advertisements that promise to fix whatever ails us. Feel a slight headache coming on, or like Amanda, maybe you want to lose weight? There’s a pill for that. Children are not only aware of what’s out there, but many times feel encouraged by outside influences to pop a pill for a quick fix.
  2. Prescription drugs are easy to access, with the majority coming from home medicine cabinets, family members or friends.
  3. There is the misguided belief that prescription drugs are safer than illicit or “street” drugs. This is false. They can be just as dangerous and even deadly.
  4. There is a lower societal stigma with prescription drugs use vs. “street drugs.” What youth need to know however, is that regardless of how others view it, taking someone else’s prescribed medication is illegal, whether taken from the family medicine cabinet or borrowed from a friend.
  5. There is also a common misperception that, “everybody’s doing it.” Again, this is false. And the fact that the majority of youth are NOT doing it is important for children to KNOW!

Gary Hale, a nonresident fellow in drug policy at the Baker Institute for Public Policy at Rice University said that when it comes to medicine abuse, “The drug war begins in the home.” Know! encourages parents to not only role model appropriate and responsible medicine use at home for their children, but to also sit down and talk with their kids to dispel the myths and have candid and ongoing conversations about the dangers and potentially deadly consequences of medicine misuse/abuse.

If you missed the last Parent Tip: Know! To Examine Your Relationship With Medication, click here to go to it now.

Source: 2012 Monitoring the Future Survey.