116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
By Emily J. Blomme
Did you know more Americans now die from drug overdoses than car crashes? It is a startling and deadly statistic. Of these deaths, 60 percent were due to the misuse and abuse of prescription drugs - making them more deadly than illicit drugs like cocaine and heroin.
Iowa is not immune to this trend. Improper use of prescription medicines is the fastest-growing form of substance abuse in Iowa.
During the last decade, the number of young Iowans age 12 or older treated for prescription painkiller abuse has increased 250 percent, and overdoses of pain medicines such as OxyContin have increased 1,200 percent.
Why are Iowa teens misusing and abusing prescription drugs?
According to the 2012 national Partnership Attitudes Tracking Survey, teens are more apt to abuse prescription medicines than illicit drugs for a few reasons. Only 14 percent of parents warn teens about prescription drugs when they have “the alcohol and drug talk.” And four in 10 teens who have misused or abused prescription drugs say they took them from their parent's medicine cabinet.
Iowa Medicine TLC is a new kind of “TLC” I encourage all parents to give their teens. It stands for Talk, Lock and Connect. Talk to your teen about prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) medicine misuse and abuse. Lock up your medicines in a secure place and properly dispose of them. Connect with the Iowa Substance Abuse Information Center to get more information.
Research has found that talking with your teen about the dangers of prescription and OTC drugs is the most effective way to prevent your teen from misusing or abusing medicines. Parents need to be aware of the most commonly abused medicines and recognize the signs of medicine misuse and abuse.
Prescription pain relievers, such as OxyContin, and tranquilizers, such as Xanax, are commonly misused and abused. Other prescriptions to monitor carefully include stimulants used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), such as Adderall. College students are more apt to misuse ADHD medicines in an effort to perform better on exams, while tweens are more apt to abuse Dextromethorphan, an ingredient found in many over-the-counter cold medicines.
Locking up medicines in a secure place and disposing of medicines properly are also important steps in preventing teen medicine misuse. Parents should keep track of all medicines in the house by using a medicine inventory card.
Taking advantage of programs like Iowa “Take-Back” or pharmacy “TakeAway” days to dispose of unused or expired prescriptions can help prevent medicine misuse.
It may not be your teen you need to be worried about, but one of your teen's friends. More than 70 percent of drug theft occurs in the home, with medicines taken from the trash or easily accessible medicine cabinets.
Iowans can also safely dispose of medicines at home in a few simple steps. Remove identifying labels from medicines. Mix prescriptions with used Kitty Litter or coffee grounds in a plastic bag. Seal the bag and place it in the trash.
Talk to your teens about the dangers of prescription and OTC drugs. Lock up these medicines and properly dispose of them. Go to IowaMedicineTLC.org to learn how you can help prevent medicine misuse and abuse.
If all Iowans practice Iowa Medicine TLC, we can create a safer environment for Iowa teens.
Emily J. Blomme is program manager at Iowa Substance Abuse Information Center, Cedar Rapids. Comments: firstname.lastname@example.org