Talk Early, Talk Often

Talking with your children about prescription drugs

Overview

Prescription drug abuse is a fast-growing problem in our country, especially among young people.

Children have more access to prescription drugs than ever. The two main sources for the drugs are parents’ medicine cabinets and the Internet. In the case of the latter, many children are simply hopping online and visiting one of the thousands of illicit  web-based pharmacies where obtaining prescription drugs is as easy as providing a credit card online.

Because different age groups require different advice, here are some important “talking points” for discussion with children of all ages.

Preschoolers

Tell your children that medicines are made to help make you feel better, but can hurt you if they are not taken the way they’re supposed to be. To illustrate this point, show them the instructions on a prescription bottle.

Tell them to never put anything in their mouths unless they know what it is.

5-8 Year Olds

Tell your children that medicine is not the only way to make yourself feel better. Emphasize that rest and a healthy diet can also help you feel better when you’re sick. Tell them to never take medicine or eat candy given by someone other than a parent or a trusted individual that the parent has given their permission to (a nurse, teacher, grandparent, etc.)

9-11 Year Olds

Learn about the effect of various prescription drugs and then share that information with your child. Role-play with your children and instruct them to say “NO” to someone who offers them drugs. Establish specific consequences with your children if they engage in any drug-related activities, including abusing prescription drugs.

12-14 Year Olds

Graphically describe some of the more harmful and distasteful things that can happen to an individual who abuses prescription drugs (vomiting, sexual side effects, etc.)

Reinforce the fact that although doctors prescribe certain medications, taking these drugs in the wrong way can result in serious illness or death. Tell your children about how drugs can ruin their future and keep them from achieving their goals and dreams.

15-17 Year Olds

Reinforce the message that drugs of any kind can ruin their future, making the message specific to college and career goals. Research the legal ramifications of trading or selling prescription drugs, then paint a clear picture for your children about the criminal consequences.

At this age, and perhaps even younger, it is a good idea to inventory all the prescription drugs you have in your home. Remove any unwanted pills from the home that may have the potential to be used by your children in an illicit manner. Lock-up the ones you need to keep in the home.

Keep close tabs on your children’s internet usage by watching for visits to online pharmacy sites or drug-culture related sites.