Prescription Drug Abuse and Teenagers

Health care, criminal justice, legislative and mental health practitioners across the country attempt to tackle this problem daily by instituting new national programs, raising awareness and working together to improve accountability.


Another program established by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) is the National Prescription Drug Take-Back initiative. In October of last year, President Obama signed the Safe and Secure Drug Disposal Act of 2010. This allowed the DEA to establish a program where individuals could safely dispose of their unwanted or expired prescription medication. Numerous communities in partnership with local law enforcement have held events. During the second annual national event, on April 30th, 2011, 5,361 sites held events representing all 50 states. People turned in 188 tons of medication for proper disposal. This brings the total up to 309 tons since the program’s inception. Although the national event is once a year, some agencies have found the need is high enough to hold local events monthly.  

Signs

Anyone can help monitor youth for signs there might be a problem with prescription drugs. Parents, school staff and law enforcement working with youth can participate in education workshops offered by agencies such as Operation Medicine Cabinet in Broward County. OMC offers these suggestions:

Some signs a child might be abusing prescription drugs:

  • Personality changes
  • Social withdrawal
  • A change in appearance
  • Erratic behavior

What parents can do:

  • Monitor your medicine cabinet
  • Talk with your child about drug use
  • Attend a “drug take back” program to rid your home of useless or expired medications

Next Steps

For law enforcement personnel, seek partnerships with other agencies. Numerous prescription drug task forces have been established throughout the country. Many include elements of education, monitoring and enforcement. Collaborate within the community, including with health care professionals and school personnel. “SRO’s are great because they could more quickly identify if there is a problem and they can deal with the kids directly,” says Oren. “It’s helpful. You want to recognize it before it becomes a big problem.”

Many websites exist with useful resources in combating prescription drug abuse. Broward County’s includes their televised public service announcement. The DEA’s website includes Take-Back fliers and more information on establishing a Take Back event. NIDA has a website for teens giving details on prescription drug abuse and the science behind addiction. Each gives additional resources as well.

When my son was asked to hold that bag of Oxycodone for a friend, he agreed. When I asked him what he would do if she had handed him a bag of cocaine, he quickly replied, “I would have said no way.” The difference is frightening and shows how adults-parents, school personnel and law enforcement need to work together to raise awareness and educate, monitor and assist our children to stay away from abusing prescription drugs. We need to also monitor ourselves and make sure we’re not inadvertently supplying teenagers. Professionally, we need to continue supporting programs addressing prescription drug abuse such as PDMPs and Take Back events. Working together, like in many things, we can make a difference.

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About The Author:

Michelle Perin has been a freelance writer since 2000. Her credits include Law Enforcement Technology, Police, Law and Order, Police Times, Beyond the Badge, Michigan State Trooper, Michigan Snowmobiler Magazine and Chief of Police. She writes two columns a month for Officer.com. Michelle worked for the Phoenix (AZ) Police Department for almost eight years. In December 2010, she earned her Master’s degree in Criminology and Criminal Justice from Indiana State University. Currently, Michelle works as the Administrative Coordinator at Jasper Mountain a residential psychiatric facility for children. In her spare time, she enjoys being the fundraising coordinator for the Lane Area Ferret Shelter & Rescue, playing her bass, working on her young adult novel Desert Ice and raising her two sons in a small town in Oregon.

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