What Parents Must Know About Prescription, OTC Drug Abuse

The source of our country’s fastest-growing drug problem may be as close as the home medicine cabinet. More people now die from prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) medication abuse than from cocaine, heroin and ecstasy combined.

And that includes teens and young adults who would never dream of using illegal drugs. One reason is the easy availability of these medications. In fact most of them are free and accessible from the medicine cabinets of friends, relatives – or even in their own home.

Teens and young adults often raid their parents’ medicine cabinets before going to “pharm parties,” where a pocketful of pills is the price of admission. The pills that go into a bowl for sharing can be a mixture of anything, including medications for pain, high blood pressure or depression.

During 2009 and 2010, 61 local teens were admitted into the CHOC Children’s at Mission Hospital’s Pediatric Intensive Care Unit as a result of overdose on prescription and over-the-counter medications, illegal substances and alcohol, as well as combination mixes of these substances. CHOC nurses noticed and decided to find out why. As part of their investigation, they reviewed the pain medication prescriptions that hospital physicians were writing for patients undergoing minor procedures. They discovered that these prescriptions were often written for larger amounts than actually needed.

Our nurses started a community health campaign that reached out to physicians and nurses in addition to local parents and teens. Part of their goal was to reduce the availability of excess pain medication sitting in home medicine cabinets within the local community.

“When we showed our physicians how many kids were being admitted and what they were taking, they were very surprised,” said Karen Caiozzo, R.N. “More than 90 percent said they would change how they write prescriptions as a result.”

CHOC nurses also developed a hospital form tracking how many pain pills are actually taken during the 24 hours prior to discharge. This tool helps physicians better estimate the amount of pain medication actually needed later at home.

Now our nurses are sharing their results with the rest of the country. This past spring, they were invited to give poster presentations to both the Society of Pediatric Nursing, in Houston, and the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners (NAPNAP), in San Antonio. Additionally, this presentation has become an online continuing education course on the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board, a website for certified nurses and nurse practitioners across the country.

What You Can Do Now

  • Talk to your teen about prescription and OTC drug abuse. Be sure your teen understands that buying or using prescription medication without a doctor’s order is dangerous — and illegal.
  • Take charge of all medications. Keep your family’s medications in a secure location. Set clear rules about taking the correct dosage at the right time. Ask friends and family to keep their prescription and OTC medications in a safe place, too.
  • Explain the purpose of each prescribed or OTC medication, including possible side effects. Stress that it is both illegal and dangerous to share these medications with friends.
  • Get to know your teen’s friends and their parents. Make sure you are all on the same page when it comes to drugs, alcohol and medications.
  • Check with your teen’s school. Are they including prescription and OTC medications when teaching about substance abuse?
  • Discard all old and unneeded medications. Mix discarded medications with either used coffee grounds or kitty litter, add hot water, then place in the garbage. Never flush them.

“You’ll be amazed when you look through your own medicine cabinet,” Karen Caiozzo, R.N., said. “People tend to save drugs thinking they might need them later and forget about them, but that’s where 70 percent of these abused medications are coming from. It’s a scary statistic.”

Related articles:

Talk To Your Kids About the Risks of Texting While Driving

A new survey from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that most teens admit that when they drive, they’re also texting and emailing.

The CDC surveyed 15,000 high school students about a variety of at risk behaviors. According to the survey, one in three high school students reported they had texted or emailed while driving during the previous 30 days.

A similar study, part of a project called Generation tXt, was presented recently at the Pediatric Academic Societies annual meeting in Boston.

Thirty students ages 15-19 participated in the study. Using simulators, the teens drove under three conditions: 1) without a cell phone, 2) texting with the phone hidden so they had to look down to see texts and 3) texting with the phone in a position of their choice. The simulators recorded unintentional lane shifts, speeding, crashes/near crashes and other driving infractions.

Be sure to talk openly with your kids about the laws and risks tied to using their cell phone and texting while driving – officials say texting is the cause of about 16 percent of fatal car crashes involving teenagers. Moreover, 80 percent of vehicle crashes involve some sort of driver inattention, according to the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

Discuss these safety tips with your teens and set a good example by practicing these guidelines too.

  • Most important, let your kids know they need to obey the law. Texting is prohibited in most states. For more information on the texting laws in California visit the DMV website.
  • Make it clear – never text and drive. Let your teen know he should turn off his cell phone before he drives if necessary, to avoid temptation.
  • Check with your phone service provider and its app store. There may be an app you can download that prohibits sending and receiving texts when a car is in motion.
  • Have your teen to pull off the road, away from traffic, to use a cell phone to talk, text or use the Internet.
  • Let your teen know that if they’re riding in a car with a driver who is texting, they need to ask him or her to stop or not ride with that person again. Teens may be afraid to speak up to their friends – stress the importance of their safety, and how that should be their biggest concern.
  • Make consequences. If you catch your teen texting while driving, take away his or her driving privileges. Setting those ground rules will make them less likely to do it.
  • Discuss the major risks of other driving distractions too, such as grooming, eating, drinking or trying to reach something that has fallen on the floor.

For more on this timely topic, please visit the DMV website.

Related articles:

  • Learning Disabilities and Your Child
    Many children have learning disorders that affect everything from their reading comprehension to their math abilities. Learning disabilities affect the brain’s ability to receive, process, analyze, or retain information. If your ...
  • Diagnosing ADHD
    “I help families understand that attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurobehavioral disorder. It is not a disorder of effort, character, intelligence, parenting skills or self-control.
  • ADHD and Diet: Fact vs. Fiction
    By Vanessa Chrisman, RD, CLE, CHOC Children’s clinical dietitian Learning to care for a child with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can be a daunting task for parents. Families must decide whether ...

Safe Alternatives to Tanning for Your Teens

Angela Bishop, beauty blogger

In recognition of Melanoma/Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month, check out these helpful tips for your teens from our guest blogger, Angela Bishop. This make-up connoisseur and mommy of two, usually shares her beauty tips and tricks on her blogs, Beauty Store Dropout and Nine More Months.

With summer around the corner, many people are getting their skin “ready” for the season. It doesn’t hurt to spend small amounts of time in the sun, however more than 15 minutes of unprotected sun exposure can be very bad. The number one danger of too much sun exposure is increased risk for melanoma – the deadliest form of skin cancer. Many people believe that a tanning bed is safer than going out in the sun, but the truth is that it can actually be worse.

Luckily, there are safer alternatives:

  • Spray tanning – Gives you almost immediate results, though only temporary. There are many different shades to choose from, so this works well for everyone. Read reviews and ask around to find the best tanning salon in your area.
  • Tanning lotion – Easy at-home way to get color, but can be tricky to apply. Most lotions are one shade only, so test a small spot on your skin before trying. For the best possible results, always exfoliate beforehand, and be sure to wash your hands well after applying.
  • Gradual tanner – Takes a few days to show, but as long as you regularly apply it you’ll continue to have a tan. Choose one with an SPF protection in it, and make it part of your daily routine.
  • Mineral bronzing powder – Instant gratification, can be adjusted to desired shade, and easily removable. One with shimmer will reflect light to give you a nice glow. Just like putting on makeup, make sure to highlight areas that are naturally touched by the sun, such as the top of your arms, shoulders, legs, and chest.
  • Tinted moisturizer – You may be familiar with this as a face product, but check your favorite beauty store and you may be surprised to find a tinted body lotion. Many of these are available with a shimmer as well, which will give you similar results to bronzing powder with the added benefit of moisturizing your skin.
  • Pale and pastel-colored clothing, such as light pinks, blues, or yellows. Try on different things to see what looks best with your skin tone. White is a good option as well, but if you have very fair skin, it can have the opposite effect, so be careful.

Whatever you choose, it’s important to always wear sunscreen if you plan on being outside for more than 15 minutes. Don’t forget about your scalp, either! A big floppy sun hat is a fashionable way to protect your head when you’re out.

Related articles:

  • Skin reactions to the sun
    All parents know the importance of sunscreen and dangers of sunburn. But do you know about other skin reactions to the sun your child might experience?
  • A Pediatrician’s Tips for Sunburn Remedies
    Summer may be coming to a close, but in Southern California, sunburns can be a year-round issue in our sunny climate. Even though trips to the beach and afternoons spent ...
  • 6 Summer Sun Safety Tips
    As temperatures rise and school is out of session, your family could likely be spending more time outdoors than inside. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting sun exposure (and ...

Talk to Your Teens About the Consequences of Binge Drinking

According to a recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), new estimates show that binge drinking is a bigger problem than previously thought. More than 38 million U.S. adults binge drink, about 4 times a month, and the largest number of drinks per binge is on average 8. Binge drinking is defined as consuming four or more drinks for women and five or more drinks for men on an occasion. Drinking too much, including binge drinking, causes more than 80,000 deaths in the United States each year, making it the third leading preventable cause of death.

Furthermore, alcohol is the most commonly used and abused drug among youth in the United States – more than tobacco and illicit drugs. Although drinking by persons under the age of 21 is illegal, people aged 12 to 20 years drink 11% of all alcohol consumed in the United States. More than 90% of this alcohol is consumed in the form of binge drinks.

Make sure you talk to your kids openly about the consequences of this critical issue. Some of these consequences include poor or failing grades, legal problems, such as arrest for driving, unplanned and unprotected sexual activity, higher risk for suicide, alcohol-related car crashes and other unintentional injuries, abuse of other drugs, and death from alcohol poisoning. In addition, keep these helpful tips in mind:

  • Help your child or teen build their self-esteem. Emphasize and reinforce their strengths and healthy behaviors. They are more likely to say no to peer pressure when they feel good about themselves and proud about their healthy habits.
  • Be a good role model. Consider how your use of alcohol may influence your kids. Consider offering non-alcoholic beverages at parties and social events to show your kids that you don’t need to drink to have fun.
  • Teach kids to manage stress in healthy ways, such as by seeking help from a trusted adult or participating in a sport or hobby they like.
  • Look for signs, such as alcohol odor or alcohol disappearing from your home. Be mindful of a sudden change in mood or attitude in your child. This includes a change in attendance or performance at school, loss of interest in sports or other activities, and withdrawal from family and friends.

To learn more about binge drinking, click here for the report from the CDC:

Related articles:

Talk With Your Kids About Inappropriate Cell Phone and Internet Use

In a study released this month by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), an increasing number of adolescents participate in “sexting,” which can include sending sexually explicit images of themselves or other minors by cell phone or the Internet.

Over 1,500 Internet users, ages 10 through 17, were surveyed about their experiences with appearing in, creating or receiving sexual images or videos. The study found that 2.5 percent of youth surveyed have participated in sexting in the past year. If sexting is defined as transmitting sexually suggestive images, rather than sexually explicit images, that number increases to 9.6 percent. Most kids who have participated do so as a prank or while in a relationship, and a significant number of the incidents included alcohol or drug use.

Study authors recommend that more young people are educated on the consequences of possessing or distributing sexually explicit images, which is currently treated as a criminal offense.

Experts agree that talking openly with your kids is a great way to learn how much your kids know about the topic, and an opportunity to discuss with them the potential consequences. Express how you feel in an age-appropriate, non-confrontational way. An ongoing, two-way dialog can go a long way in helping your kids understand how to minimize legal and social risks.

In many cases, kids are acting this way in response to peer pressure, in a form of cyberbullying or pressure from a boyfriend or girlfriend. Sometimes it’s impulsive behavior, blackmail, or flirting. Make sure they understand that sharing these type of images should be avoided via email and the web too – not just their cell phones. Let your kids know that in any case, this is activity they should not participate in or support.

For more information on kids and cell phones, please click here:

Related articles:

  • Teens and Social Media Safety: Tips for Parents
    Snap Chat. Whats App. Voxer. With new online messaging and communications applications seemingly popping up daily, parents more than ever need to be mindful of their children’s technology and social ...
  • Tips For Teens to Avoid Distracted Driving
    If teens didn’t need another reason not to text and drive, police across the region will crack down on distracted drivers in April as part of national Distracted Driving Awareness ...