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Viewpoint: Time to discuss teen prescription drug abuse

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“It’s easy to get them.” “It’s not illegal.”

“Using them is okay, just to feel better.”

“Sure, I’ll share them. What’s the big deal?”

We talk to our children about the dangers of drugs, about drinking. There are major marketing campaigns encouraging teens to think, to stand up to drugs, to say Not Even Once or to talk to someone they trust. This is all important. Our children should be able to grow up in a safe and warm world. As parents, teachers, coaches and mentors, we strive to protect them. But there is a danger hiding right in our own homes – prescription medicine abuse – and it’s time to add it to the conversation.

Teen prescription medicine abuse is an epidemic. More than four in 10 teens have abused a prescription drug, many taking it right out of their parent’s medicine cabinet. The consequences are serious with over 70,000 children going to the emergency room due to prescription medication poisoning every year. One-third of teens believe “it’s okay to use prescription drugs that were not prescribed to them to deal with an injury, illness or physical pain.” Thirteen percent of teens report using non-prescribed Ritalin or Adderall, while one in 12 high school seniors have reported non-medical use of Vicodin (one in 20 – OxyContin.) Teens living in rural areas were more likely than their urban peers to abuse prescription drugs, with 13 percent of rural teens reporting non-medical use at some point in their lives. Do we have your attention?

The Montana Meth Project, a proven, large-scale prevention program aimed at reducing first-time Meth use among teens, presented a community event to address this issue. We felt best positioned to initiate this conversation with teens, and our established relationships were critical to the launch of this effort that began with an event at the University of Montana, Skaggs School of Pharmacy. We invited a distinguished panel of experts including University of Montana Dean David Forbes, Montana First Lady Lisa Bullock , Tony King from the Montana Pharmacy Association and Dean Chrestenson, Prescription Drug Diversion Detective. Each point of view reinforced the importance of fighting this underground and insidious problem.

This is an epidemic that can be fought. The Montana Meth Project encourages you to make sure the teens in your life don’t have access to your medicine. Monitor what you have, secure your medicine and dispose of expired or unused prescriptions. Learn the signs of prescription medicine abuse such as red or glazed eyes, sudden mood changes and secretiveness. Most of all, talk with your teens. Children who learn about the risks of drugs from their parents are up to 50 percent less likely to use drugs than those who do not get this information at home. We know this works. Again and again we have seen positive results through the fostering of peer to peer, and teen to parent discussions.

It’s time to take action. Please go to http://montanameth.org/Pledge/ to take The Pledge to fight this scourge and learn more about prescription medicine abuse. You’ll also see a list of locations to dispose of your old and unused medications. Then, talk to your teens. They will not only hear you; they will listen.

We’ve been asked, “Why would the Montana Meth Project privately fund this initiative?” We feel it’s too important not to lead this discussion. We will continue our vigilant focus on Meth prevention, but supporting drug education on this front is just as vital. We encourage you to Take the pledge, talk to your teens and take back your old and unused medicines.

Amy Rue

Executive Director

Montana Meth Project

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