Remember your tooth extraction or appendectomy five years ago? Did you ever get rid of those Vicodin tablets? If not, you may be putting your teenaged children, grandchildren, or their friends at risk for experimenting with your left-over medications. Let’s face it; adolescents are curious. Bathroom time at your house might include browsing through your medicine cabinet.
Every day in the US, about 2,000 adolescents experiment with prescription drugs for the first time. Most teens and young adults who abuse prescription drugs get them from friends and relatives; sometimes without their knowledge. When high school seniors were surveyed in 2012, 50% said that obtaining prescriptive opioids (e.g., Vicodin) was relatively easy.
The most commonly abused prescription drugs are opioids (e.g., OxyContin, Vicodin), central nervous system depressants (e.g., Xanax, Valium), and stimulants (e.g., Concerta, Adderall). Over-the-counter medications are also sometimes abused. Some teens have taken Dextromethorphan, a common cough remedy ingredient, in very large amounts trying to get high.
The improper use of medications is dangerous and in many cases can cause addiction. Abuse of any type of mind-altering drug can affect judgment and inhibitions increasing risk-taking behaviors and potential injuries.
Stimulants: paranoia, dangerously high body temperatures, and heart beat irregularities.
Opioids: drowsiness, nausea, constipation, and slowed breathing.
Dextromethorphan in large doses can impair motor function, cause nausea, vomiting, increased heart rate and high blood pressure.
So, get a bag or two and spend a few minutes perusing your medicine cabinet. Check expiration dates, remove old prescriptions, and retrieve those tablets in the bottle with the faded writing. Bring them to the next county-wide medication drop off or take them to a drop box in your community. Click here for a printable list. Don’t give the kids in your life the opportunity to explore the effects of your unused medications.