By Sari Harrar
During October and November, the Healthy Kids blog will look at this issue through the stories of former teen prescription-drug users now in recovery, their parents and local addiction-recovery experts working to treat addicted teens and help parents prevent this under-the-radar and illicit drug use.
Today, Sari took a look at your comments and decided to examine the one recurring theme that ran through the thread: Are parents powerless when it comes to teen abuse of prescription drugs?
Plenty of parents are clueless about the temptations, risks and pressure teens face when it comes to experimenting with the illicit use of prescription drugs -- but when we get up to speed, are we still powerless? As I interviewed people on the front lines of this epidemic for our just-concluded prescription drug abuse series for Health Kids, I asked this question over and over again.
The real experts -- parents and former teens who’ve been through it -- say parents can make a difference. As the parent of a young teen, that makes me feel better. But readers of the blog have been divided over just how much parents can do to deter it:
“Our daughter died too,” one reader wrote in response to yesterday’s post about Ronnie Powell, the Souderton High School football star who died from a painkiller overdose in 2008. “ I'm not sure it matters as much as we think what we do or say. In today's world, its tough growing up, sometimes tough staying alive.”
Another parent, whose step-daughter survived addiction but continues to struggle, was more encouraging: “My stepdaughter started out with prescription pain killers at 15 after she was in an auto accident. From there she and her boyfriend moved on to pot, meth and possibly heroin..that we know of. Fast forward to today and she is on methadone and desperately struggling to stay clean, and sadly, sometimes does fail,” this reader wrote. “Please talk to your teens, your children, your young adults. Don't ever think that these kinds of pain killers are not the same as speed, heroin, coke, etc...they are exactly the same. Be a parent. You're not here to be their friend, your job is to protect them. You have more influence than you know. My heart goes out to anyone and everyone with an addict child or relative.”
One reader pointed out a simple way to make prescription drugs harder to swipe: “It's so important for parents to realize that they may be their child's first drug dealer,” this reader writes. “The medicine cabinet needs to be treated like the liquor cabinet.”
Would tougher rules for prescribing addictive pain pills help? While some chronic-pain experts say restrictions will penalize people who take opiate pain relievers for legitimate pain, plenty of others -- including coalitions of families who’ve experience prescription-drug abuse -- have petitioned the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. They’re asking the FDA to block drug-company marketing of long-acting pain-killers, like OxyContin, for everyday aches and pains like back pain and toothaches and to limit daily doses. One reader writes “I'm a firm believer that the biggest drug dealers in the united states aren't the guys on Kensington and Somerset, but the major drug companies that hawk Oxycodone.”
What do you think? Can parents make a difference? Send us your stories via the comments section of this post if you’ve talked with your teen about prescription drug abuse, staged an intervention to stop abuse or get help for prescription-drug addiction, work with teens who’ve misused prescription drugs or lived through this experience yourself. You can also share your stories with us on our facebook page at facebook.com/philly.comhealth. We want to hear from you.