October is National Medicine Abuse Awareness Month

Do you practice responsible and appropriate use of medicine?

drugsEach day in the U.S., nearly 7,000 people abuse or misuse a prescription drug for the first time, while approximately 2,500 of them are youth between the ages of 12 and 17. Prescription medication abuse continues to rise and devastate families and communities throughout our country. In fact, while the United States makes up a mere 4.6 percent of the world’s population, it consumes 80 percent of its opioids (pain medication) and 99 percent of the world’s hydrocodone (the opiate in Vicodin).

In honor of October being National Medicine Abuse Awareness Month, Drug Free Action Alliance (DFAA) encourages you to examine your relationship with medication.

There are many contributing factors to America’s abuse of prescription medications, including:

Drug Marketing:  Children and adults are bombarded by drug advertisements that promise to fix whatever ails us. We are not only much more aware of what’s out there, but many times feel encouraged by outside influences to pop a pill for a quick fix. In 2010, Americans spent $259.1 billion on prescription drugs. That number is projected to double by 2020.

Access:  Prescription drugs are easy to access, with the majority coming from home medicine cabinets, other family members or friends. Fifty-four percent of those abusing prescription drugs claim to get them for free from family/friends, while another 17% report buying or stealing prescription drugs from family/friends.

Stigma:  There is a lower societal stigma with prescription drug use vs. “street drugs.” Due in part to this lower stigma, more adults and teens report abusing medications than all other illicit drugs combined. But taking someone else’s prescribed medication is not only illegal, it is dangerous (with potentially fatal consequences).

Everybody’s Doing It:  For youth, a common misperception is that “everybody’s doing it.” Again, this is false. And the fact that the majority of youth are NOT doing it is important for children to know.

When used correctly, medicine plays an important role in managing health conditions. But when misused, abused or taken when unnecessary, these drugs can be unhealthy, unsafe and unpredictable.

It is important to closely examine your relationship with medication because you may be unintentionally misusing, and you may be laying the foundation for your children to do the same.

In today’s world, regardless of what ails us, there is likely “a pill for that.” Feel a slight headache coming on or maybe you want to lose weight? There’s a pill for that. But just because we can doesn’t always mean we should. As parents and caregivers, we must also be aware of the behavior we are role modeling for the children in our lives.

So what exactly is appropriate and responsible use of medicine? It is considering other options for relief, before popping a pill for a quick fix (when it comes to minor aches and pains). It is following the dosage and time table as prescribed and not mixing medications without a physician/pharmacists’ approval. It is not allowing others to use or “borrow” prescription medications, not even with close friends or family whose symptoms appear similar. And it is being aware and heeding specific medication warnings, whether it is a warning not to drive, not to perform particular tasks on the job or at home, or not to drink alcohol while taking the medication – as the outcome is unpredictable, may render the medicine ineffective or potentially produce a fatal combination.

Responsible and appropriate use of medicine also includes keeping all prescription and over-the-counter drugs locked up and monitored, as well as properly disposing of expired, unused and unwanted medications.

Drug Free Action Alliance encourages you to not only practice responsible and appropriate medicine use for yourself, but to model for your children a safe and healthy respect for medicine. DFAA also urges you to sit down and talk with your children to dispel the myths and engage in candid and ongoing conversations about the dangers and potentially deadly consequences of medicine misuse/abuse.

*NOTE: This message is not intended to serve as medical advice. It is only meant to get individuals thinking about the role medication plays in their lives and how that in turn impacts their children’s views and future behaviors.

Sources: Health Affairs Journal. 2012 Monitoring the Future Survey. Where Pain Relievers Were Obtained for Most Recent Nonmedical Use among Past Year Users Aged 12 or Older: 2010-2011 NSDUH

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