Drugs are much easier to get than most people want to admit. The farthest you have to look is the family medicine cabinet to find a host of prescription drugs. That little cabinet attached to the bathroom wall is a veritable treasure trove of addictive substances.

The Statistics on Prescription Drugs

  • 52 million Americans have used prescription drugs for non-medical reasons at least once
  • 3 million youth, 12 to 17 years old, have used prescription drugs for non-medical reasons at least once, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA)
  • 1 in 5 teens has used prescription drugs to get high

The Problem Is Under Your Nose

Addictive drugs are not difficult to find. An astounding 3 out of 5 teens report that prescription pain medications are very easy to find in their family medicine cabinet, according to the Partnership for a Drug-Free America. Seventy percent of youth get prescription drugs from their family's or friends' medicine cabinets. Sampling a variety of drugs and adding in alcohol, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), has become a grave problem. U.S. physicians write 180 million prescriptions for addictive prescription drugs, like opioids, every year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports a 10-fold increase in these prescriptions over the past 20 years.

Dangers at Home

Prescription drug use is second only to illicit marijuana use. Some commonly abused prescription drugs include:
  • Vicodin
  • OxyContin
  • Xanax
  • Valium
  • Klonopin
  • Methadone
Anything from antidepressants, stimulants or cough suppressants like acetaminophen with codeine are addictive drugs found in family homes across the U.S.

The Root of the Problem

The problem is that teens and adults believe this: if a doctor prescribes a medication, it is safe. Most people think that a doctor's prescription makes the drug less risky than illicit drugs. This is not true. Prescription drugs are just as dangerous as illicit drugs. About one-half of pain medication prescriptions are not used for the intended purpose--to relieve pain.

Addiction 101

It is important to know the physical and social signs of drug abuse, which include:
  • Behavioral changes
  • Change in appetite, both increased and decreased
  • Isolating at home
  • Red eyes
  • Running nose
  • Track marks at common injection sites (on arms)
  • Itching
  • Skin infections
  • Sweating
  • Increased anger
The risk of accidental prescription drug overdose has increased over the past 20 years. According to the CDC, drug overdose death rates increased by nearly 120 percent from 1999 to 2011 alone.

Taking Precautions

Medications in the family medicine cabinet need to be monitored. Only 17 percent of adults have disposed of unused or expired prescription drugs. (Since 2005, National Take-Back programs have cropped up in communities to help get rid of expired, unused or unwanted medications. Since then, 774 tons of medication has been taken out of circulation in the country.) Children mimic parent’s behavior. Set an example. Tell children what medications are being taken and why. Talk about the dangers of taking medicine without an individual prescription, and about the medications that can be abused.  

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