While efforts to curb underage drinking are to be commended, everyone needs to be aware of another developing situation. It seems adolescents may be replacing alcohol with other equally or even more dangerous substances.
A 2009 survey of teens aged 12-17 years reported some alarming findings. When asked which substances were easiest to buy, 26 percent of teens stated marijuana was easiest, which was the same number as cigarettes. Even more surprising was that beer was only listed as easiest to buy by 14 percent of teens. Prescription drugs were at 16
percent. Also, when asked about the difficulty of obtaining narcotics other than heroin, 34.9 percent of 12th graders said these substances were “fairly easy” or “very easy” to get.
Yet another disturbing trend is the abuse of certain over-the-counter cough and cold medications by adolescents. These items are being routinely sought out by teens for the sole purpose of abuse. While nine out of 10 parents reported discussing drugs with their child or teen within the past year, “drugs in general,” cigarettes and alcohol topped the list of discussed items, but prescription meds and non-prescription drugs were near the bottom of the list.
Parents, pharmacy employees and store cashiers need to be on the lookout for signs of over-the-counter medication purchases for the intent of abuse. It is generally not normal for a teen to be purchasing his or her own cold medications, or to have them in their possession at times when no cold symptoms are present. Also, all prescription medications in the home need to be closely guarded when there are adolescents present.
Take extra care with medications with a high potential for abuse. If you have any questions regarding which medications you have in the home or which over-the-counter medications you should be concerned about, please ask your nurse, doctor or pharmacist.
Chad O’Connell, PharmD
Driscoll Drug Pharmacy manager
327 S. Excelsior Ave.