Studies show that, because of escalated prescription drug use, children today are abusing drugs at a younger age than children a generation ago. Starting at twelve-to-thirteen years old, this illustrates a two-to-three year reduction at the time that drug experimentation begins. The causes for this decrease in age are many, though the likely primary culprit contributing to drug abuse at a younger age may come as a surprise to parents everywhere. While some of the usual suspects – such as marijuana, LSD, alcohol, inhalants, and magic mushrooms – remain drugs of choice throughout a child’s formative years and into adulthood, the key perpetrator may be the prescription pain medication sitting right in your medicine cabinet.

Parents are Unaware of Prescription Drug Abuse

Recent polls are pointing to an overall obliviousness to the dangers of prescription drug abuse among children at alarmingly younger ages. Despite estimates indicating that “1 in 4 high school seniors have ever used a narcotic pain medicine,” few parents truly believe that prescription narcotic pain medicine like Vicodin or Oxycontin poses any real danger within their families. While 35% of parents assert that they are very concerned about prescription drug abuse among children and teens in their communities, only about 19% profess that they are very concerned about misuse of narcotic pain medication within their own families.

Why are Parents Numb to Prescription Pain Medication Abuse?

We recently commented on the increased role of prescription pain medication in everyday life, and we believe that these recent findings serve as further proof of the assessments made. Perhaps it is as simple as parents assuming, “It could never happen to me.” The reality, however, is that, considering the prevalence of prescription drugs, it can happen to anyone. Prescription drugs are simply too widespread and – to the detriment of our children’s health – turned to too rapidly for even the most benign of reasons. Furthermore, the effect is compounded when considering that, for every child who is prescribed medication, his or her friends become at-risk for prescription drug abuse as well. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) stipulates that “the majority of both teens and young adults obtain prescription drugs they abuse from friends and relatives, sometimes without their knowledge” with about 50% citing that opioid drugs would be “fairly easy or very easy” to acquire.

It is important to remember that, though prescribed by doctors, prescription pain medication can be highly addictive and, thus, very dangerous. If you do have narcotic pain medication in your home, we advise you to keep track of it as you would any other potentially dangerous object. Doing so may keep your children – and your children’s friends – from putting themselves in harm’s way.