Education Extra

Addiction Prevention: What Parents Need to Know


One of the largest growing problems in our state today is prescription drug abuse. According to the DEA, Alabama received 10.5 million prescriptions for pain relievers and tranquilizers in 2015. Compare that to the population of Alabama at 4.8 million people. That means on average we are getting 2.19 prescriptions for opiates and mood stabilizers, which the highest in the nation.

Chemical dependence starts after having a medication or any drug in your system continually for 21 straight days. The danger we are seeing is that students are trying prescription meds because they view them as a safe alternative to street drugs.

64% of high schoolers get their prescriptions for misuse from a friend or family member. Because we have such a high prescription rate, we also have easy access and availability. One individual once told us that he could walk into any home in his neighborhood and walk out with some medication to abuse often times without the knowledge of the homeowner.

But how does that translate to our teenagers? Alabama students ages 12-17 are using prescription medications, for non-medical use, at a rate of 14.8% higher than the national average, just for prescription pain killers alone. This does not take into account tranquilizers or study drugs. The common drugs of abuse include: opiates (Oxycontin, Lortab, etc.) anxiety meds (Xanax. Klonopin, Valium), and study drugs which are in the amphetamine family (Adderall, Ritalin). Opiate based medications are generally the most destructive long term, however any misuse of prescription medication can lead to an addiction. If a prescription is given to an adolescent, we encourage parents to be in control of the medications at all times. The parents should dispense the medication based on doctor’s orders and not more frequently unless advised by the prescribing doctor to do so.

Often students are using for the first time to experiment or out of curiosity. The problem is that the first use allows them to escape a problem or feeling. The use is often a symptom of a deeper root cause like depression, loss of identity, stress, etc. The teen will begin to use to escape or feel differently which can lead to dependence. For parents, we encourage you to know some of the telltale signs of use like dilated or constricted pupils; loss of interest in hobbies; changes in grades, cash flow; missing pills. Often parents know there is something not quite right. We encourage families to act quickly and seek a local counselor. Often times it will not be an addiction issue, but an opportunity to address the root cause before a dependence develops. The counselor will also help navigate the next steps if any are needed.

screen-shot-2016-09-27-at-9-52-50-pm-J. Sandor Cheka, III

Executive Director

Addiction Prevention Coalition

initiative of The Freedom Source


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