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Keep your teen safe from prescription drugs

Prescription pills arranged on a table. Text reads: Be sure you know how to get rid of meds you no longer need.

Oct. 6, 2018—Almost 1 of every 4 teens reports abusing a prescription medicine at least once in their lifetime.

Many teens mistakenly believe that prescription drugs are safer than illegal street drugs because they're medicines and come from trusted sources, such as a doctor or dentist. But using these drugs without a proper prescription can be just as dangerous as using street drugs. It can cause serious problems, including addiction and overdose.

In fact, 46 people in the U.S. die every day from an overdose of prescription painkillers. Unfortunately, many teens are using opioid painkillers to get high.

Opioids aren't the only prescription drugs ripe for abuse. Some teens use Adderall or Ritalin—medicines used to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)—to try to perform better on school tests. But studies show that these stimulants do not help learning when used by people who don't have ADHD.

October just happens to be Talk About Your Medicines Month. Most teens who abuse prescription medicines get the drugs from a relative or friend, or out of the family medicine cabinet. That's why it's vital that parents and caregivers take the time to talk to their teens about prescription drug abuse and carefully keep track of their medicines. It's best to keep them locked away.

If you have drugs in the house that are no longer being used, get rid of them. If a drug take-back program isn't available, a number of medicines can be immediately flushed down the toilet to reduce the danger of illegal use. Among these are painkillers such as morphine, hydrocodone, oxycodone and fentanyl, including fentanyl patches. Even after the patch is used, some medicine remains in it. That's why it comes with instructions to flush it after use.

Other kinds of unneeded drugs can be disposed through a drug take-back program or you can do it yourself at home. Here's how:

  1. Remove the drugs from their original containers and mix them with something undesirable. This might be coffee grounds, dirt or cat litter.
  2. Put the mixture in something you can close, such as a zip-close bag, to prevent the drug from spilling out.
  3. Throw it in the garbage.
  4. Scratch out the personal information on the empty medicine container to protect your identity, and throw the packaging away.

Sources: U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration; U.S. Food and Drug Administration

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