Many people, especially teenagers, do not understand that drugs prescribed by a doctor and obtained through a pharmacy can be just as dangerous as ‘street drugs’, if not more so because of how they are perceived by teens. Most teenagers equate prescription (Rx) drugs with over the counter (OTC) drugs like aspirin, Tylenol, Nyquil or throat lozenges. When we can go into our local pharmacy or grocery store and buy both OTC drugs and have Rx drugs filled for purchase, teens tend to not differentiate the difference between the two.
In fact, Rx drugs are Controlled Substances. It is illegal for anyone to share their prescriptions with others, even family members, because if you do so, you are distributing a controlled substance that was prescribed only for you. Your prescription takes into account many factors: Your diagnosis, other Rx and OTC drugs you may be taking, your height and weight, the dosage and frequency of how often you are supposed to take your medication, and especially any allergies you may have. All of those pieces of information combine into a prescription that is written ONLY for you. This is one of the ways adults need to be proper role models for our youth; never share your Rx medicine with anyone.
One way to illustrate responsibility with medicine to your kids in your own home is to ‘house’ the OTC drugs in a completely different location than the Rx drugs. For instance, keep your OTC drugs on a shelf in the restroom and keep your Rx drugs in a drawer or shelf in your bedroom. This will serve two purposes: 1. By housing the two different types of drugs in two different locations, you are physically showing your kids how to differentiate between them. 2. Housing your Rx drugs in your bedroom is an ideal climate. Most Rx drugs should not be stored in the restroom because of humidity and temperature changes.
A second way to show your kids how to be responsible with Rx drugs is to have an organization system that ensures you are taking the correct pills at the correct time each day. At the beginning of every week, pull out the Rx drugs you will need and an organizer, and using the labels on the bottles figure out which pills need to go into which slots for each day. Then for the rest of the week, you don’t have to think about whether or not you took your meds at a certain time, but more importantly you have illustrated to your kids how seriously you consider prescriptions to be AND you can keep track in case any of your meds go “missing”.
Finally, keep an ongoing conversation with your kids about your medications and their medications. Explain how the meds they take could interact with a different medication that someone else gave to them, sometimes with disastrous consequences. Explain the importance of taking one’s meds exactly the way it says on the bottle. And finally, explain how the meds they are prescribed should be the ONLY Rx drugs they take… EVER. If they find themselves in a situation where their peers are making dangerous choices, give them a “Get out of Jail Free” card to call you and ask you to come pick them up, wherever they are, regardless of what time it is, and you finish by promising that you will never get angry with them for acting appropriately in a peer-pressure-filled situation. You will be proud.