Addiction Parenting Prescription Drugs Prevention

Prescription Drugs: The New Gateway Drugs

Prescription drugs are one of the easiest drugs to obtain.

Ritalin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Often times, it’s as simple as going into the medicine cabinet at home, at a neighbor’s house, a friend’s house or a family member’s home. This ease of accessibility coupled with the curiosity and natural rebelliousness of teenagers is a recipe for experimentation, sneakiness, and even mimicry of parental actions.


Some kids start using prescription drugs because they are trying to inappropriately cope with their stress or anxiety; some use it to try to get an “in” with a certain crowd. There are those, too, who have been prescribed a medication for one thing, notice a “benefit” for something else (like more focus on a test), and begin misusing it or sharing it with their friends.


According to the Office of National Drug Control Policy, more than 71, 000 children ages 18 and under are seen in the ER for unintentional overdoses of prescription and over-the-counter drugs.

  • Two-thirds (66%) of teens who report abuse of prescription medications get them from friends, family, and acquaintances.
  • Among young people ages 12-17, prescription drugs are the second most abused drug (behind marijuana)
  • Teens ages 12-17 have the second-highest annual rates of prescription drug abuse; young adults 18-25 have the highest rate.
  • Every day, 2700 teens try prescription drugs for the first time with the intent of getting high.
  • Nearly one in four teens have taken a prescription medication that was not prescribed to them.
  • One in three teens report being offered a prescription drug or OTC medication for the purpose of getting high.
  • One in three teens report having a close friend who abuses prescription pain medications.
  • One in four teens report having a close friend who abuses cough medicine to get high.
  • One in 10 teens report abusing cough medicine to get high.

Parents need to take preventative actions with all of their medications. Do you safely dispose of unused medications? Or do they reside in the dark corners of your medicine cabinet, collecting dust on their exhausted expiration dates?  Are they loosely out on a counter or tabletop which is easily accessible? Now is the time to batten down the hatches, so to speak, and take some preventative measures.  Our kids watch us all the time; they learn from our actions and reactions, and they often mimic us so it behooves us to behave in a way that we would like to see our children behave.  Trust me, seeing my son say something sarcastic and realizing he’s just mimicking me is mortifying, and that’s just sarcasm! Kids will try anything on, and if taking a lot of medications is part of your habitual behavior, they will try that on too.


  • Communicate with your kids and educate them about the risks of prescription drug abuse. Be honest and age appropriate.
  • Don’t take medications that aren’t prescribed to you. (A recent study by The Partnership at showed that 27 percent of parents have taken a prescription medicine without having a prescription for it themselves.)
  • Store your medications in a secure place.
  • Count and monitor the amount of pills you have before you lock them up.


Prescription drugs are being hailed as the new gateway drug.

More often than not, one begins with prescription opiates and ends up using and abusing street drugs. The reality is, once the medicine cabinets are depleted and the sheer cost of Oxycontin, Vicodin, etc., becomes prohibitive, the path inevitably darkens.


Stay aware. Tap into the multitude of resources like SAMHSA, Partnership for a DrugFree America, and the Medicine Abuse Project for more information and free pamphlets. If you suspect your child is abusing prescription drugs or any drugs, seek help.


Resources for this blog:

Partnership for Drug Free America

Medicine Abuse Project

Educate Before You Medicate

Dispose My Meds


Addiction Heroin Prevention

The Skinny on Heroin: Cheap, Accessible and Deadly

The media is calling Heroin the “silent assassin,”

Heroin syringe (Photo credit: Thomas Marthinsen)

and many are  saying there’s a Heroin epidemic, mostly because of the recent celebrity overdoses and increase in heroin deaths across the country.  The latest celebrity death of Phillip Seymour Hoffman seemed to really strike a nerve. Is it because he was clean for a long period of time, openly talking about his troubles with addiction? Or is it because he’s someone we as an audience want or need to respect because of his wide range of talent? It’s a loss, a great one, but it is more a reminder of the devastation drug use can cause.


The use of heroin is prime for a death sentence and its inexpensive procurement makes it an easier and more desirable go-to than drugs like Oxycontin, particularly if you are young, desperate, and broke. At the same time, for celebrities like Hoffman or Cory Monteith, familiarity may be the calling card.

According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA), “Prescription opioid pain medications such as Oxycontin and Vicodin can have effects similar to heroin when taken in doses or in ways other than prescribed, and they are currently among the most commonly abused drugs in the United States. Research now suggests that abuse of these drugs may open the door to heroin abuse.”


And according to a 2012 Monitoring the Future study (a NIDA funded survey of teens in grades 8, 10, and 12, only 0.05% of 8th graders, 0.6% of 10th graders and 12th graders reported using heroin at least once in the past year. The number of teens using heroin is down significantly to what it was in the 1990s. The main concern now is that teens addicted to prescription opiods like Oxycontin will eventually turn to heroin because of its low cost.


Concerned about your teen or young adult? Here are some signs to look for:


  • Extreme drowsiness: nodding off, acting sleepy, moving really slowly
  • Itching, scratching at face and arms
  • Nausea
  • Pupils very small, like pinpoints, even in dim light
  • Marks on the skin (if heroin is injected vs sniffed)


Talking to someone who has a drug problem isn’t always easy, in fact, it can be down right difficult. You may encounter denial, anger, frustration, sadness, regret, and you may face a litany of excuses. Regardless, encourage your friend or loved one to talk to a counselor or a teacher, or trusted adult. Be kind and encouraging and make sure you are also getting the support you need. Reaching out to a friend or loved one lost in the throes of their addiction can be overwhelming and deeply upsetting. Make sure you also have resources you need to decompress and ground yourself: a therapist, AlAnon, CoDA, or a space or practice that you can lean into to take care of yourself.


Check out NIDA for more information on heroin.

Help is just a phone call or email away. Contact us with any questions or concerns.

Addiction Adolescence Substance Abuse

Adolescent Substance Abuse Rises the Summer, According to Study

Adolescent substance abuse tends to rise in the summer months of June and July. Notably, this period correlates with a time where adolescents have more idle hours, less parental supervision, and looser schedules with less responsibility. Summertime, has always been that time of teen freedom. Unfortunately, it also is prime time for experimentation and adolescent substance abuse.

According to a report recently released by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), “approximately 11,000 adolescents use alcohol for the first time, 5,000 try their first cigarette, and 4,500 begin using marijuana” during the months of June and July. Yes, this is surely problematic, but it’s also a call for ardent preventative measures. Adolescent substance abuse isn’t a rite of passage; it’s an emblematic symbol of the frightening difficulties facing our teens. The substance abuse conversation needs to happen year round, not as a one-time discussion, but as an ongoing dialogue between parents and their burgeoning teens.

The media has a multitude of public service announcements (PSAs), which target adolescent substance abuse. In particular, this study suggests increasing the frequency of these PSAs during the summer months in hopes of increasing awareness. In areas where there is limited access to preventative measures, however, the study suggests communities create “attractive alternatives” to alcohol and substance abuse, inspiring curious adolescents to move in a safer direction. Some of these alternatives could include community events or youth activities that encourage sober fun. It’s definitely possible to combat adolescent substance abuse in a non-preachy and informative way. The biggest challenge might be grabbing the interest of teens, who tend to steer away from any adult-led suggestions of fun, engaging entertainment.

We have the facts: adolescent substance abuse is up in the summer.  What are we, as parents, educators, and mental-health professionals going to do about it? For starters, we’re going to do our darndest to create safe, open spaces for our kids to talk to us. We are going to leave our hearts and minds open to having a consistent, transparent dialogue with our adolescents. It’s not easy; frankly, it’s one of the toughest things to do, but this is prime time to be present for our kids. They need us more than ever during this period of their lives, even though they may tell you otherwise.

If you are a parent, friend, or relative of a teen struggling with adolescent substance abuse, there is help. Don’t hesitate to reach out if you need to–you are not alone.

Addiction Adolescence Mental Health

Doctor, Doctor, Gimme the News

Image by WhatDaveSees via Flickr

Is your teen playing doctor? Surely, this is an appropriate question for parents of adolescents who are concerned about teens entering a sexually intimate relationship before he or she is ready.

Unfortunately, this is not what I’m addressing. John Lieberman, our Director of Operations sees quite a bit of this and is concerned that “adolescents are literally playing doctor in the worst way, taking both prescribed and over-the-counter medications to treat perceived illnesses and issues.” They are reading information on the Internet, getting advice from peers as to what medications they should take, and they’re often mixing and matching drugs while they’re at it. While some of these Internet sites have some valuable information regarding symptom checks and corresponding information about illnesses, they also present a danger. Any time we look at something from the perception of a layperson, we risk finding and relating to symptoms within the descriptions of many illnesses. That’s what real doctors are for: differentiating reality from the natural misinterpretation from those of us lacking the vital MD title. Pharmaceutical-related overdoses have increased, proving the increasing danger in this behavior, and spurning an all out war against the pharmaceutical industries.

Drugs like Vicodin, Oxycontin, Percocet, and Demoral are all opium derivative drugs. This particular class of drug is highly addictive and can easily lead to an overdose. Xanax, Ativan, Klonopin, Soma, Lunesta and others are benzodiazepines. These, too, can create a physical addiction in a short period of time and in worse cases, cause death. Adderal, Ritalin, and Vyvance are amphetamines primarily used to treat ADHD and are subsequently very powerful drugs that can cause heart attack and stroke, particularly when used inappropriately. The latter are often traded amongst kids in an effort to get high, or even as an attempt to increase their focus at school.

Our kids are playing doctor with quite a varied array of drugs, and this does not take into account the rampant abuse of illicit drugs or alcohol. According to John Lieberman, “Our teens are using very powerful psychoactive drugs during a time in their lives when they are emotionally vulnerable and when their brains are in a major stage of development.” According a 2010 statement by the APA:

“The brain’s frontal lobes, essential for functions such as emotional regulation, planning and organization, continue to develop through adolescence and young adulthood. At this stage, the brain is more vulnerable to the toxic and addictive actions of alcohol and other drugs.”

This isn’t just about playing doctor, kids are also doing chemistry experiments…with their own brains.

This blog was co-written by John Lieberman, our Director of Operations.

Additional links:

Causes of Increase in Opioid Deaths Probed

Be the Wall

Partnership for a Drug Free America

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