Remember when you were teaching your children how to cross the street safely? It was a conversation that took place over a long period of time and involved several different phases.  You taught your child to look both ways, you insisted on holding their hand, you let them push the crosswalk button, and on and on until finally they understood the dangers and knew exactly how to cross the street safely. Talking to your kids about prescription drug abuse should be taken just as seriously and done similarly.  


According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), prescription drug abuse is the fastest growing drug problem in the United States. Because of the easy accessibility of prescription drugs, teens are particularly at risk of the dangers of prescription drug abuse. 90% of addictions start in the teenage years, and 65% of teens who misuse prescription drugs say they get them from family members and friends. “Pharm parties” or “skittles parties” are popular games that involve teens dumping medications found around their homes into a communal bowl to be taken randomly. The dangers of this cannot be emphasized enough. Talking to your kids about prescription drug abuse is more important than ever. Here’s how:


Start early

When your children are young enough to understand medication, they’re young enough to start learning about how to use it carefully. Make it a point to read the dosage on their over-the-counter cold medications or your prescriptions. Explain to them why it’s so important to take medicines as prescribed. 


Be honest

If you have any family members who have trouble with addiction or who have died from overdose, be honest with your children about this history and how it connects to proper use of medication. 


Keep the conversation going

Just like teaching your children to cross the street safely, teaching them about the safe and proper use of medication involves many conversations over a long period of time. Having a single “talk” is not enough. Keep the conversation going. 


Keep it casual

Mini casual conversations here and there can be a good way to talk to teens.  If you come across interesting statistics or hear a related story at work, mention them during a time when you and your teen can have a casual conversation while driving or or participating in other activities together like cleaning up the kitchen. For best results, avoid lecturing. 


Ask questions

One of the best ways to engage children is to ask them questions. Ask about how their friends might respond if offered a random medication from another student. Ask if they know anyone who has shared medications. Let their answers guide the conversation. 


Practice active listening

Once you’ve asked the questions, it’s important to listen to the answers. Make it a point to let your child know you’re interested in what they have to say. Reserve judgement, and remember that hearing things you don’t want to hear means your child is opening up. 


Stay calm

Even if you do hear something that concerns you, it’s best to stay calm in your child’s presence. Listen to what they have to say, and respond with, “Hmm, that worries me a little bit,” or something otherwise honest but measured. Discuss your concerns with other adults before you respond fully so that you can do so in a way that doesn’t scare your child off from further conversations or cause them to shut down. 


Educate yourselves together

Once your children are a little bit older, you can involve them in educating themselves and you. For example, if you have an upcoming surgery, ask for their help researching non-opiate pain treatments. Or, before you let them go to an unchaperoned party, ask them to first research strategies for resisting peer pressure. The more information your child has, the better equipped they’ll be to stay safe from the dangers of prescription drugs.


Need help talking to your teen? Call Pacific Health Systems today. 

At Pacific Health Systems in San Diego, our providers offer a range of services that can help you and your family stay safe and healthy. Our primary care doctors, psychologists and psychiatrists are committed to whole-patient wellness, and we provide high-quality, cost-effective mental health and chemical dependency services throughout San Diego County. For more information or to schedule an appointment, give us a call at (619) 267-9257 today.