Know! Sweet 16

Prescription drug abuse has reached epidemic proportions in communities throughout our country. However, with researchers focusing more time and attention on the topic, we are beginning to get a better grip on who is most at-risk and what we can possibly do to stop it in its tracks.

When it comes to opiate abuse among youth (Rx pain medications), most people associate it with older adolescents (high school seniors and college students). But according to a newly released study from Michigan State University (MSU), the actual peak age for opiate abuse to begin is 16, when about one in 30 to 40 teens takes that first painkiller for a high.

Experts say these results call for tougher prescribing guidelines for clinicians and for the implementation of school-based Rx drug abuse prevention programs (similar to the alcohol and tobacco initiatives within schools).

But as the parents of adolescents now, we KNOW! we also must act today to bring our children up to speed on the dangers of Rx drug abuse.

When talking to your children about Rx medications, make sure they KNOW!:

  • A doctor takes many things into account when prescribing a patients medication including, the individuals height, weight, known allergies and potential drug interactions.
  • Just because a doctor prescribed it for your friends back pain doesn't mean it is safe or effective for treating your shoulder pain.
  • Even when Rx drugs are taken as prescribed, by the intended user, they can have dangerous side-effects (a doctors supervision is necessary).
  • What equals a safe dose for grandma does not necessarily equal a safe dose for you. Rx meds are not meant to be shared, not even among family.
  • A prescription medication picked up at the pharmacy can be just as dangerous as illegal drugs picked up off the street.

Limit your childs risk at home with three simple steps: 

  1. MONITOR: Keep track of all medications in your home.
  2. SECURE: Lock up both prescription and over-the-counter meds.
  3. DISPOSE: Do not hold on to old or unused medications. 

Click here for safe disposal guidelines.

A final word to share with your children: Rx medication abuse is not just unhealthy and unsafe, it is also illegal. For more information, visit 

Source: Elizabeth A. Meier; Jonathan P. Troost; James C. Anthony. Extramedical Use of Prescription Pain Relievers by Youth Aged 12 to 21 Years in the United States: National Estimates by Age and by Year. Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, Published online May 7, 2012 DOI: 10.1001/archpediatrics.2012.209.