The Prescription Drug Epidemic: The Impact on Our Youth

by Nicole Youcupicio, Casa Grande Alliance, Prevention Specialist

The prescription drug abuse epidemic has been a hot topic across our nation recently, but did you know it is also right here in our local community? Not only is this affecting adults, but it has also hit our youth population.

Over 4% of youth in Casa Grande report abusing prescription drugs in the past 30 days, with prescription pain relievers being the most frequently misused.1 Although that may seem like a small percentage, any number of youths abusing drugs is too many.

Another way to view this percentage would be that nearly 1 in 20 children abuse or that one teen in each classroom abused prescription drugs. Unfortunately, these drugs are extremely accessible for teens and perceived by them to be safer than other drugs. Both of these factors can lead to a dangerous situation, but there are preventative steps we can take to help avoid this by: safely securing prescription drugs in our homes; properly disposing of unused and expired medications; and by talking to our children about the dangers of drugs and alcohol including prescription drugs.

21.4% of youth in Pinal County report getting prescription drugs from their home.2 Whether that’s out of the medicine cabinet, their mom’s purse, or the car – teens are acquiring these drugs primarily from home – our homes.

Prescription drugs, just like alcohol, need to stay out of reach and locked up at all times. The misuse and abuse of medications can be reduced by locking them up, and/or disposing of any unused or expired medications properly so they cannot be stolen or abused. There are individual locking caps for pill bottles that can be purchased as well as safes you can install in your medicine cabinet to help prevent the wrong hands taking the medicine.

Now, once you no longer need your medication, how do you dispose of it? There are many medication drop-off sites throughout Pinal County to safely and securely dispose of all unused or expired medicines. Simply dump all of your pills into a Ziploc bag, seal it, and throw it in the secure drop box. The local law enforcement will handle everything after that point. A list of all of the medication drop-off sites in Pinal County can be found on the Casa Grande Alliance’s website, at www.CasaGrandeAlliance.org.

We know that teens are abusing prescription drugs, but what can we do as parents and caring adults to help combat this?
Talk to your children. Sounds simple enough, but studies show one of the top reasons why kids choose not to use alcohol and other drugs is because they do not want to disappoint a parent or another caring adult in their life.2 By having open and honest conversations with our children and setting clear boundaries, we can help steer them away from drugs.

Teens whose parents talk to them regularly about the dangers of drugs and alcohol are 50% less likely to use drugs, yet less than 40% of Pinal County teens report having these conversations.2,3 We need to correct this. We need to have these conversations and have them frequently. It could be the determining factor of whether or not a youth ever tries a drug.

Prescription drugs are extremely dangerous and addictive, especially on the growing adolescent brain. So, before the curiosities of these powerful drugs entrap our children, we can choose to be proactive. Talk to them about drugs and alcohol and your no-tolerance policy for using them, lock away any prescription drugs while they are in your home, and properly dispose of them when they are no longer in use.

For more information on how to prevent prescription drug misuse and abuse, visit the Casa Grande Alliance website at www.casagrandealliance.org or call 520-836-5022.