Summer is really here. No more scheduled homework nights, no more packing lunches, and no more worrying about teacher reports and whether your child turned in their homework. We are not worry free though. The CDC has just released a report which is startling to parents of tweens and teens. The report is below, but first,
The CDC lists prescription drug abuse as the fastest growing drug problem among 12-17 year olds. One in four high school students in the U.S. admits to having taken a prescription drug without a prescription. The number of teens going into treatment for addiction to prescription drugs has increased by more than 300%. Emergency room visits for prescription drug abuse have more than doubled since 2004. 48% of all ER visits for prescription drug abuse are by young people ages 12-20. Prescription drugs are now involved in more overdose deaths than heroin and cocaine, combined.
The National Family Partnership is concerned that parents may be drug suppliers over the summer without even knowing it. If you aren’t talking to your kids, and trying to give them a “summer off”, you could be setting them up to become involved with prescription drugs. With the end of the school year, children look forward to a long break and a lot of time at home alone. Substance abuse has been noted to increase with long school breaks especially among those teens with little supervision. NFP (National Family Partnership) goes on to report:
- 70% of teens who abuse Rx drugs get them from family and friends.
- 68% of households do not properly secure their Rx medications.
- Studies show that unmonitored kids are four times more likely to engage in substance abuse.
- The distressed employment market makes it harder for teens to find summer jobs, leading to more boredom, restlessness and free time.
- A new study surveyed 2,500 high school students and reported that one in four admitted to abusing Rx drugs.
This is frightening especially if you are a single parent of a tween or teen with little means to afford camps and other summer programs. The main things you can do, no matter what your income, are:
- Safeguard all medicines by monitoring quantities and controlling access. Remove drugs from your medicine cabinet and lock them up.
- Talk to your tweens and teens about the dangers of prescription drugs. Remind them that they are just as dangerous, addictive and lethal as street drugs. Studies show that teens dangerously view prescription drugs as “safer” to abuse than illicit drugs.
- Properly dispose of old or expired medicines in the trash. Hide or mix them with cat litter or coffee grounds before throwing them away.
- Don’t have kids at home? What about your grandchildren, nieces and nephews, and your friends’ kids that visit your house?
- Consider help from resources such as www.truecare.net. They have information about how to talk to your children and how to keep them safe with text messages and social networks. They are also able to help you by alerting you if your child is engaging in unsafe texts or websites. I work with this company and they have saved the lives of many at-risk youth.
Summer will always hold special memories of being free and “on vacation.” You can allow your child those memories of freedom and vacation, but you need to talk to them and let them know you are very much engaged in their life. Parents who set boundaries and have expectations for their children, raise children who are responsible and connected to their family.
Mary Jo Rapini, MEd, LPC, is a licensed psychotherapist and co-author with Janine J. Sherman, of Start Talking: A Girl’s Guide for You and Your Mom About Health, Sex or Whatever. Read more about the book at www.StartTalkingBook.com and more about Rapini at www.maryjorapini.com.