On the home front against drug abuse
Prescription drug abuse is the fastest-growing substance abuse problem in the country, accounting for one death every 19 minutes. In a recent survey, more than 12 percent of Florida's high school seniors reported abusing prescription drugs in 2011. Abuse of prescription drugs includes taking them without a prescription, sharing prescription drugs with friends and using them in ways unintended by the prescribing physician, including recreational purposes. Our teens are especially susceptible to the dangers of prescription drug abuse because prescription drugs, often found in the family medicine cabinet, are easier to access than street drugs. Teens who abuse prescription drugs predominately abuse prescription pain relievers, such as Vicodin, Oxycodone and Percocet, prescribed for legitimate reasons, including wisdom teeth extraction and sports injuries. Teens are not the only ones abusing these drugs. Parents should examine their own behavior to ensure they are setting a good example. If you misuse your prescription drugs, your teen will notice. Talk to your teen about the dangers of abusing prescription and over-the-counter drugs and take these steps to limit access to drugs and help keep your teen drug-free:Safeguard all drugs at home. Monitor quantities and control access. Take note of how many pills are in a bottle or pill packet, and keep track of refills. If your teen has been prescribed a drug, be sure you control the medication and monitor dosages and refills. Set clear rules about all drug use, including not sharing medicine and always following the medical provider's advice and dosages. Make sure your teen follows instructions for over-the-counter products carefully. Be a good role model by following these same rules with your own medicines. Properly dispose of old or unneeded medications according to label instructions, or go to www.fda.gov for medication disposal guidelines. Ask friends and family to safeguard their prescription drugs as well. Encourage them to regularly monitor their own medicine cabinets and alert you if they suspect your children may have taken any of their medications. Drug abuse is not going to be prevented in courtrooms or legislative hearing rooms. It will be prevented while in the car, waiting in line and sitting in living rooms, dining rooms and across kitchen tables — by parents and families. Parental engagement at the dinner table can be a simple, effective tool to help parents prevent substance abuse by their children. We encourage parents to recognize the important role family mealtime plays in positive adolescent and teen development by eating dinner with your family and observing Family Day on Monday. For tips on how to make family dinners easy, interactive and fun, visit casafamilyday.org.
Zackary Gibson is Florida's chief child advocate and director of the Office of Adoption and Child Protection. Anita Odom is director of Prevent Child Abuse Florida at the Ounce of Prevention Fund of Florida.