Eat Together as a Family. Save Your Kids From Drugs?

Photo: SuziJaneResearch by the National Center on Addiction and Substance abuse compared the drug and alcohol consumption patterns of teens that ate family dinners 5 or more times per week, with those that ate them 2 or less times per week, and the difference revealed is dramatic. Families that don’t often eat together have teen children that are:

300% more likely to smoke marijuana 250% more likely to smoke cigarettes 150% more likely to drink alcohol

Wow! What an easy way to make a real difference, in your teen’s life, and for the family as a whole. The study authors state that although the simple act of eating together as a family seems most important, the experience can be enhanced with conversation and by ensuring the TV is turned off throughout the meal.

Research continually demonstrates the influence of family and parental involvement on the likelihood of teens avoiding the troubles of drugs and alcohol. And this recent study shows just how easily parents can ensure they exert that influence. Make it fun for all, order a pizza if that’s what it takes, and sit down as a family, at the table. It’s worth it.

Photo: SuziJaneResearch by the National Center on Addiction and Substance abuse compared the drug and alcohol consumption patterns of teens that ate family dinners 5 or more times per week, with those that ate them 2 or less times per week, and the difference revealed is dramatic. Families that don’t often eat together have teen children that are:

300% more likely to smoke marijuana 250% more likely to smoke cigarettes 150% more likely to drink alcohol

Wow! What an easy way to make a real difference, in your teen’s life, and for the family as a whole. The study authors state that although the simple act of eating together as a family seems most important, the experience can be enhanced with conversation and by ensuring the TV is turned off throughout the meal.

Research continually demonstrates the influence of family and parental involvement on the likelihood of teens avoiding the troubles of drugs and alcohol. And this recent study shows just how easily parents can ensure they exert that influence. Make it fun for all, order a pizza if that’s what it takes, and sit down as a family, at the table. It’s worth it.

15% of New England Teens Are Substance Abusers…Too Many!

Teens visiting the doctor throughout New England were given a confidential questionnaire to fill out surveying their alcohol and drug use behaviors.

Now, we know that a lot of teens are using drugs and alcohol, and we know that about 80% of teens will have done so by the time they finish senior year in high school, but we didn’t know that so many of these teens that are experimenting with drugs and alcohol are consuming these substances at such a significant rate.

Fifteen percent of teens screened in New England self reported substance use behaviors that met the criteria for substance abuse. Not substance use, substance abuse.

We know that the earlier teens start taking drugs and alcohol in quantity the more likely they are to become addicted and also to experience psychiatric illness. We also know that early intervention and preventative screenings that unearth problematic use behaviors can make a real difference. Sometimes all it takes is a few words from a doctor or a school counselor, in private, about use behaviors and the risks of those behaviors to make a real behavioral difference.

The study leaders call for an increase in substance abuse screenings and preventative interventions nation-wide. Let’s hope they get heard by those that can enact such changes, and let’s hope that we can stop a lot of these preventable tragedies…before abuse becomes addiction and pain.

Teens visiting the doctor throughout New England were given a confidential questionnaire to fill out surveying their alcohol and drug use behaviors.

Now, we know that a lot of teens are using drugs and alcohol, and we know that about 80% of teens will have done so by the time they finish senior year in high school, but we didn’t know that so many of these teens that are experimenting with drugs and alcohol are consuming these substances at such a significant rate.

Fifteen percent of teens screened in New England self reported substance use behaviors that met the criteria for substance abuse. Not substance use, substance abuse.

We know that the earlier teens start taking drugs and alcohol in quantity the more likely they are to become addicted and also to experience psychiatric illness. We also know that early intervention and preventative screenings that unearth problematic use behaviors can make a real difference. Sometimes all it takes is a few words from a doctor or a school counselor, in private, about use behaviors and the risks of those behaviors to make a real behavioral difference.

The study leaders call for an increase in substance abuse screenings and preventative interventions nation-wide. Let’s hope they get heard by those that can enact such changes, and let’s hope that we can stop a lot of these preventable tragedies…before abuse becomes addiction and pain.

Why Do We Lie to Kids About Drugs?

We teach them in drug education classes about the harms of drugs and alcohol, and the pains that these can bring to those that would abuse them. We teach them these things because we love them and we worry for them and we know the perils they face as they proceed through the turbulent years of adolescence.

Our intentions are good, and all we wish to do is to spare them pain; but we almost always take things too far. We scaremonger; we say all drugs are bad…equally bad, and we present worse case scenarios as commonplace occurrences.

And it works fine for a while, and they believe us…for a while. But then they get a little bit older, and they see that some people that smoke marijuana don’t seem to be experiencing all of those drastic consequences that we foretold of. They get a bit older, and they learn a bit more and they start to realize that they were lied to!

They learn that not everyone that smokes a joint becomes a junky; in fact mostly they seem to do just fine. And then we wonder why they don’t believe us when we warn them of the dangers of meth…but why should they, we can’t be trusted. We need to start teaching kids the truth about drugs so that they can be informed about the real risks and consequences of their actions. We need to teach them that marijuana is not as harmful as a lot of other drugs and that most people that use it will not become raving lunatic drug addicts. We need to teach them that there are a lot of legitimate risks associated with today’s marijuana, but we need to stay real about it, and tell them the truth. They’ll learn it for themselves eventually anyways.

And maybe if we tell them the truth about marijuana, maybe they’ll smoke it or maybe they won’t (it’s pretty unlikely that more will smoke it than do know!) but at least they will know that they have been treated with respect, told the truth and educated to make their own decisions; and maybe then they will believe us when we warn them of the real dangers of a lot of other life-destroying drugs floating about out there.

 Kids aren’t dumb, they’ll learn the truth, and they will remember being lied to.

We teach them in drug education classes about the harms of drugs and alcohol, and the pains that these can bring to those that would abuse them. We teach them these things because we love them and we worry for them and we know the perils they face as they proceed through the turbulent years of adolescence.

Our intentions are good, and all we wish to do is to spare them pain; but we almost always take things too far. We scaremonger; we say all drugs are bad…equally bad, and we present worse case scenarios as commonplace occurrences.

And it works fine for a while, and they believe us…for a while. But then they get a little bit older, and they see that some people that smoke marijuana don’t seem to be experiencing all of those drastic consequences that we foretold of. They get a bit older, and they learn a bit more and they start to realize that they were lied to!

They learn that not everyone that smokes a joint becomes a junky; in fact mostly they seem to do just fine. And then we wonder why they don’t believe us when we warn them of the dangers of meth…but why should they, we can’t be trusted. We need to start teaching kids the truth about drugs so that they can be informed about the real risks and consequences of their actions. We need to teach them that marijuana is not as harmful as a lot of other drugs and that most people that use it will not become raving lunatic drug addicts. We need to teach them that there are a lot of legitimate risks associated with today’s marijuana, but we need to stay real about it, and tell them the truth. They’ll learn it for themselves eventually anyways.

And maybe if we tell them the truth about marijuana, maybe they’ll smoke it or maybe they won’t (it’s pretty unlikely that more will smoke it than do know!) but at least they will know that they have been treated with respect, told the truth and educated to make their own decisions; and maybe then they will believe us when we warn them of the real dangers of a lot of other life-destroying drugs floating about out there.

 Kids aren’t dumb, they’ll learn the truth, and they will remember being lied to.

Study on student led drug education gets VERY mixed results!

Billions have been spent educating our kids in schools about the dangers of drugs and alcohol, and despite the best of intentions; these programs have failed. Independent evaluations of DARE and other school anti drug message courses show absolutely no difference in drug taking behaviors between teens exposed to school education, and those not. In response, a lot of schools (with justification) have decided that their scant resource dollars would be better spent elsewhere, and the intensity of drug education in our nation’s schools has fallen somewhat.

A better way?

University researchers at USC decided to change the matrix slightly, and see if they couldn’t design a better drug education program. They enlisted the help of approximately 500 alternative school high school students, a traditionally high risk group for substance use and abuse, to participate in the pilot project. These students were randomly assigned to two protocol groups. The first group received drug education within a traditional teacher led classroom program, and the second group participated in a self directed peer based program. The peer based students elected a classroom representative to lead the program, and the students ran a self directed drug education module, where they spent time divided into small groups, discussing issues pertaining to the dangers of substance abuse.

The results were mixed

On average, after evaluating drug taking behaviors for a full year after the completion of the program, students who had participated in the peer led group reported 15% less drug taking behaviors than those who had been randomly assigned to the teacher led group. Which sounds like great news, until researchers reveal that those students who participated in peer led programs amongst other students in favor of drugs…actually increased their drug usage as opposed to the teacher led group.

A bit worrisome to say the least!

It’s encouraging to see continuing research in a needed area, but for now, schools cannot be relied on for effective drug education, and as always, the job must fall to parents. Thankfully, although research has proven school programs a dismal failure, it has also revealed just how effective an open dialogue from parents on the subject of drug and alcohol abuse can be. Kids whose parents talk to them about drugs don’t use drugs as much…period. Kids whose parents let the schools do it…well, that’s a bit of a gamble, and if the above study tells us anything, the kind of drug education peers are getting from peers may not be the sort of thing parents envision when they imagine "school drug education".

Billions have been spent educating our kids in schools about the dangers of drugs and alcohol, and despite the best of intentions; these programs have failed. Independent evaluations of DARE and other school anti drug message courses show absolutely no difference in drug taking behaviors between teens exposed to school education, and those not. In response, a lot of schools (with justification) have decided that their scant resource dollars would be better spent elsewhere, and the intensity of drug education in our nation’s schools has fallen somewhat.

A better way?

University researchers at USC decided to change the matrix slightly, and see if they couldn’t design a better drug education program. They enlisted the help of approximately 500 alternative school high school students, a traditionally high risk group for substance use and abuse, to participate in the pilot project. These students were randomly assigned to two protocol groups. The first group received drug education within a traditional teacher led classroom program, and the second group participated in a self directed peer based program. The peer based students elected a classroom representative to lead the program, and the students ran a self directed drug education module, where they spent time divided into small groups, discussing issues pertaining to the dangers of substance abuse.

The results were mixed

On average, after evaluating drug taking behaviors for a full year after the completion of the program, students who had participated in the peer led group reported 15% less drug taking behaviors than those who had been randomly assigned to the teacher led group. Which sounds like great news, until researchers reveal that those students who participated in peer led programs amongst other students in favor of drugs…actually increased their drug usage as opposed to the teacher led group.

A bit worrisome to say the least!

It’s encouraging to see continuing research in a needed area, but for now, schools cannot be relied on for effective drug education, and as always, the job must fall to parents. Thankfully, although research has proven school programs a dismal failure, it has also revealed just how effective an open dialogue from parents on the subject of drug and alcohol abuse can be. Kids whose parents talk to them about drugs don’t use drugs as much…period. Kids whose parents let the schools do it…well, that’s a bit of a gamble, and if the above study tells us anything, the kind of drug education peers are getting from peers may not be the sort of thing parents envision when they imagine "school drug education".

Teens experimenting with harder drugs are 3 times as likely to have suicidal thoughts

Teens that use drugs other than marijuana are three times as likely to have suicidal thoughts…and only about a third of teens at risk for suicide receive any preventative counseling.

Revealing statistics by the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse (NHSDA) show that although we know that the best way to lessen the prevalence of suicide is through early intervention and counseling, we are failing to intervene with the vast majority of at risk kids.

Additionally, we also know that those kids who use drugs other than marijuana are three times as likely (29% as versus 10% for non drug using kids) to have suicidal thoughts. Also disturbing is that the vast majority of kids who do eventually get preventative therapy for suicidal ideations receive this treatment only after an unsuccessful suicide attempt or voiced suicidal thoughts.

Although we aren’t doing a great job recognizing and intervening in the lives of at risk kids, nobody really has any concrete ideas or plans for doing better; and any attempts at bettering our track record of intervention surely have to begin in the home, and with the only people who have much real influence over at risk teens…their parents.

A wake up call for parents

Parents who catch their kids using illicit drugs need to understand the accompanying risks associated with drug seeking behaviors, and recognize that almost 3 in 10 teens that are using drugs are at risk for suicide. Parents need to stay involved and vigilant in the lives and behaviors of teens prone to experimentation, and be ready to take appropriate action should teens exhibit drug seeking behaviors.

Don’t take a chance…get professional help!

Substance abuse is always best caught as early as possible, and in the early stages very low intensity therapy or treatment can have great effects. Another compelling reason for catching substance abuse at the earliest possible opportunity is to identify kids at risk for suicidal thoughts…and some professional involvement may be advisable when kids are experimenting with drugs other than marijuana. Although most kids experimenting with harder drugs do not have suicidal thoughts, enough do that early drug experimentation must be a call to preventative action and possibly professional intervention.

 

Teens that use drugs other than marijuana are three times as likely to have suicidal thoughts…and only about a third of teens at risk for suicide receive any preventative counseling.

Revealing statistics by the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse (NHSDA) show that although we know that the best way to lessen the prevalence of suicide is through early intervention and counseling, we are failing to intervene with the vast majority of at risk kids.

Additionally, we also know that those kids who use drugs other than marijuana are three times as likely (29% as versus 10% for non drug using kids) to have suicidal thoughts. Also disturbing is that the vast majority of kids who do eventually get preventative therapy for suicidal ideations receive this treatment only after an unsuccessful suicide attempt or voiced suicidal thoughts.

Although we aren’t doing a great job recognizing and intervening in the lives of at risk kids, nobody really has any concrete ideas or plans for doing better; and any attempts at bettering our track record of intervention surely have to begin in the home, and with the only people who have much real influence over at risk teens…their parents.

A wake up call for parents

Parents who catch their kids using illicit drugs need to understand the accompanying risks associated with drug seeking behaviors, and recognize that almost 3 in 10 teens that are using drugs are at risk for suicide. Parents need to stay involved and vigilant in the lives and behaviors of teens prone to experimentation, and be ready to take appropriate action should teens exhibit drug seeking behaviors.

Don’t take a chance…get professional help!

Substance abuse is always best caught as early as possible, and in the early stages very low intensity therapy or treatment can have great effects. Another compelling reason for catching substance abuse at the earliest possible opportunity is to identify kids at risk for suicidal thoughts…and some professional involvement may be advisable when kids are experimenting with drugs other than marijuana. Although most kids experimenting with harder drugs do not have suicidal thoughts, enough do that early drug experimentation must be a call to preventative action and possibly professional intervention.

 

Drug testing in schools…what’s wrong with that?

Anyone could see that the issue would create some controversy, but I can’t believe the strength of opposition to a privacy rights violation confirmed as permissible by the Supreme Court.

First of all, let me clarify…I am very much against the "war on drugs" and I don’t believe that enforcement of drugs and alcohol addiction issues will ever create any positive change in our society. I also believe that rigid criminal penalization of drug use does far more harm, and promotes far more criminal activity than it could ever hope to reduce; and I am uncomfortable siding with an administration that (despite a dubious personal history of abuse by our commander in chief) has done very little to reduce harsh federal sentencing and done equally little to improve access to treatment by those that need it.

But done well, and with sensitivity, school drug testing gives school administrators and through them parents, the information they need to take concrete and productive steps towards intervention and possibly treatment…as early into drug abuse as is possible. We should not look at drug testing as an enforcement issue, but instead as a fantastic way to improve treatment intervention for a group uniquely vulnerable to the effects of drugs and alcohol.

Early drinking and or drug abuse dramatically increases the risks of ultimately having an abuse issue or dependency to drugs or alcohol, and if we could just keep kids from experimenting for a few more years we would achieve a massive reduction in eventual dependency rates, accompanying social costs and personal devastations.

There have been a number of arguments put forth by those that ideologically oppose drug testing in our schools, and while I respect the motivations of those people that hope to put a stop to the testing, I question their ideations.

Myth no. 1…drug testing won’t protect kid’s rights to confidentiality

Opponents of drug testing in the school blast measures that don’t do enough to protect the privacy rights of kids using drugs or alcohol…but it’s not as if other teens don’t already know who’s using and who isn’t; it’s just educators and parents who are largely in the dark…and kids sharing a joint under the bleachers certainly aren’t hiding their consumption from other teenaged eyes.

We won’t "out" kids abusing drugs or alcohol, we’ll just be able to help them.

Myth no. 2…drug testing will damage trust issues between educators and teens

Another major point of contention amongst opponents to the policy is a belief that drug testing will increase the adversarial nature of the teacher student relationship, and reduce the ability of educators to positively influence the actions of teenagers.

I find this one also pretty ridiculous. Almost 3 quarters of high school kids will illegally use alcohol and almost half will try illicit drugs…clearly the influence of educators has some pretty serious limitations outside of the school environment, and I would even argue that conclusive evidence of abuse would reduce the adversarial nature of a relationship.

Things tend to get most heated when one side accuses without proof, and one side denies while unable to prove absolute innocence. With drug testing, there is no need for uncertainty, and neither is there any need for an adversarial relationship. A positive drug test does not need to be handled punitively within the school environment, but that information does need to be passed to concerned parents who are in a far greater position of influence, and far more able to effect change.

Myth no. 3…drug testing won’t reduce drug taking in schools

Opponents point to studies that polled high school students about whether drug tests would cause them to reduce their consumption as evidence of their ineffectiveness; but drug testing has had real success, most notably in the military where compulsory drug testing has dramatically lowered levels of abuse over the last years.

We should never be drug testing kids looking for an excuse to punish, and all we should be trying to accomplish is to protect teens at risk of abuse and addiction from the greater dangers of drug use. Schools should not be responsible for enacting policies against drug usage, and only parents have enough influence and control over their kids to really induce any real change…unfortunately most parents either never know about drug use, or don’t find out about it until it’s too late, and a recreational usage has become a serious problem.

We don’t need or even want schools to try to influence drug taking…that’s a job for the family; but they are in a great position to spot and conclusively test for usage, and give that information to people who really care and want to see a behavioral change. Parents deserve information that will allow them to take concrete and constructive steps towards drug and alcohol avoidance.

We will have to see…

Drug testing non compliant teenagers does carry some risks, and I don’t think that it should be done with a heavy hand or with punitive measures in mind. But if it is done well, and if schools allow parents the right and responsibility of taking appropriate action after a positive test…I can’t see how drug testing could be anything but a very positive step to protect our kids.

Anyone could see that the issue would create some controversy, but I can’t believe the strength of opposition to a privacy rights violation confirmed as permissible by the Supreme Court.

First of all, let me clarify…I am very much against the "war on drugs" and I don’t believe that enforcement of drugs and alcohol addiction issues will ever create any positive change in our society. I also believe that rigid criminal penalization of drug use does far more harm, and promotes far more criminal activity than it could ever hope to reduce; and I am uncomfortable siding with an administration that (despite a dubious personal history of abuse by our commander in chief) has done very little to reduce harsh federal sentencing and done equally little to improve access to treatment by those that need it.

But done well, and with sensitivity, school drug testing gives school administrators and through them parents, the information they need to take concrete and productive steps towards intervention and possibly treatment…as early into drug abuse as is possible. We should not look at drug testing as an enforcement issue, but instead as a fantastic way to improve treatment intervention for a group uniquely vulnerable to the effects of drugs and alcohol.

Early drinking and or drug abuse dramatically increases the risks of ultimately having an abuse issue or dependency to drugs or alcohol, and if we could just keep kids from experimenting for a few more years we would achieve a massive reduction in eventual dependency rates, accompanying social costs and personal devastations.

There have been a number of arguments put forth by those that ideologically oppose drug testing in our schools, and while I respect the motivations of those people that hope to put a stop to the testing, I question their ideations.

Myth no. 1…drug testing won’t protect kid’s rights to confidentiality

Opponents of drug testing in the school blast measures that don’t do enough to protect the privacy rights of kids using drugs or alcohol…but it’s not as if other teens don’t already know who’s using and who isn’t; it’s just educators and parents who are largely in the dark…and kids sharing a joint under the bleachers certainly aren’t hiding their consumption from other teenaged eyes.

We won’t "out" kids abusing drugs or alcohol, we’ll just be able to help them.

Myth no. 2…drug testing will damage trust issues between educators and teens

Another major point of contention amongst opponents to the policy is a belief that drug testing will increase the adversarial nature of the teacher student relationship, and reduce the ability of educators to positively influence the actions of teenagers.

I find this one also pretty ridiculous. Almost 3 quarters of high school kids will illegally use alcohol and almost half will try illicit drugs…clearly the influence of educators has some pretty serious limitations outside of the school environment, and I would even argue that conclusive evidence of abuse would reduce the adversarial nature of a relationship.

Things tend to get most heated when one side accuses without proof, and one side denies while unable to prove absolute innocence. With drug testing, there is no need for uncertainty, and neither is there any need for an adversarial relationship. A positive drug test does not need to be handled punitively within the school environment, but that information does need to be passed to concerned parents who are in a far greater position of influence, and far more able to effect change.

Myth no. 3…drug testing won’t reduce drug taking in schools

Opponents point to studies that polled high school students about whether drug tests would cause them to reduce their consumption as evidence of their ineffectiveness; but drug testing has had real success, most notably in the military where compulsory drug testing has dramatically lowered levels of abuse over the last years.

We should never be drug testing kids looking for an excuse to punish, and all we should be trying to accomplish is to protect teens at risk of abuse and addiction from the greater dangers of drug use. Schools should not be responsible for enacting policies against drug usage, and only parents have enough influence and control over their kids to really induce any real change…unfortunately most parents either never know about drug use, or don’t find out about it until it’s too late, and a recreational usage has become a serious problem.

We don’t need or even want schools to try to influence drug taking…that’s a job for the family; but they are in a great position to spot and conclusively test for usage, and give that information to people who really care and want to see a behavioral change. Parents deserve information that will allow them to take concrete and constructive steps towards drug and alcohol avoidance.

We will have to see…

Drug testing non compliant teenagers does carry some risks, and I don’t think that it should be done with a heavy hand or with punitive measures in mind. But if it is done well, and if schools allow parents the right and responsibility of taking appropriate action after a positive test…I can’t see how drug testing could be anything but a very positive step to protect our kids.

Keeping teenagers safe from easy to get pharmaceuticals

Photo: Okko PyykkoWhat can parents do when the "pusher man" has become an easy to access online website selling potent drugs without the need for a prescription?

It’s a scary time to be a parent, and while parents of every generation may have felt the same way, with the incredibly easy access to drugs that today’s teens have, parents often feel a bit overwhelmed at how to protect their impressionable teens from dangerous pharmaceutical abuse. A quick survey of internet pharmacies proves that there is little that cannot be bought through the services of an illegitimate pharmacy located out of the country.

Oxycontin, hydrocone, xanax, and benzodiazepines are just a few of the many drugs that are but a mouse click away.

Pharmaceutical abuse is rising, and while yesterday’s teens may have raided the family liquor cabinet, today’s teens can easily supply their own drug needs through online ordering or even through the misuse of over the counter medications. These drugs are pretty scary too; some of them are very addictive, and some of them are very risky for dangerous overdoses, especially when taken in conjunction with other pills or with alcohol, which research indicates is a very common practice. The misuse or abuse of these pharmaceuticals is misperceived as relatively safe and harmless, and does not carry the stigma associated with the usage of "illicit drugs" such as heroin, marijuana or LSD; but these drugs are just as dangerous as illicit drugs, and are also very addictive, and with an estimated 6 million Americans currently addicted to pills, the danger of a crippling and potential destroying addiction is very real…and very scary.

So what can we as parents do?

Try to monitor your teen’s internet activities, and be very suspicious of any activity at online pharmacy websites, or drug info related sites. Most teens get the information on dosages that they need from the internet, from sources that may or may not be providing credible and safe information. Be aware of any pharmaceutical paraphernalia. Empty bottles of cough syrup, empty pill wrappers, or other such medication related debris are not normally carried around, and probably indicate at the very least some experimentation with pharmaceuticals. Educate your teens as to the risks involved with using pharmaceuticals, and make sure that they are aware of the dangers and the possibility of death. Don’t keep a lot of old and unused medications hanging about in the medicine cabinet. If you’re finished with the pills but have some remaining, dispose of them properly. Also, be aware of the quantities of medicines used regularly, and if you seem to be refilling prescriptions for certain drugs more often than you think that you should…this may indicate a problem.

Be involved and try to be a part of your teen’s life. It can be difficult to determine whether changes in behavior are a normal part of adolescence, are in fact caused by something more sinister, but by staying active in your teen’s life, you are in a better position to spot trouble before things get serious. We as parents can only educate our kids as to the dangers, be on the lookout for trouble, and hope for the best. It is truly a frightening time to be the parent of a teenage kid.

Photo: Okko PyykkoWhat can parents do when the "pusher man" has become an easy to access online website selling potent drugs without the need for a prescription?

It’s a scary time to be a parent, and while parents of every generation may have felt the same way, with the incredibly easy access to drugs that today’s teens have, parents often feel a bit overwhelmed at how to protect their impressionable teens from dangerous pharmaceutical abuse. A quick survey of internet pharmacies proves that there is little that cannot be bought through the services of an illegitimate pharmacy located out of the country.

Oxycontin, hydrocone, xanax, and benzodiazepines are just a few of the many drugs that are but a mouse click away.

Pharmaceutical abuse is rising, and while yesterday’s teens may have raided the family liquor cabinet, today’s teens can easily supply their own drug needs through online ordering or even through the misuse of over the counter medications. These drugs are pretty scary too; some of them are very addictive, and some of them are very risky for dangerous overdoses, especially when taken in conjunction with other pills or with alcohol, which research indicates is a very common practice. The misuse or abuse of these pharmaceuticals is misperceived as relatively safe and harmless, and does not carry the stigma associated with the usage of "illicit drugs" such as heroin, marijuana or LSD; but these drugs are just as dangerous as illicit drugs, and are also very addictive, and with an estimated 6 million Americans currently addicted to pills, the danger of a crippling and potential destroying addiction is very real…and very scary.

So what can we as parents do?

Try to monitor your teen’s internet activities, and be very suspicious of any activity at online pharmacy websites, or drug info related sites. Most teens get the information on dosages that they need from the internet, from sources that may or may not be providing credible and safe information. Be aware of any pharmaceutical paraphernalia. Empty bottles of cough syrup, empty pill wrappers, or other such medication related debris are not normally carried around, and probably indicate at the very least some experimentation with pharmaceuticals. Educate your teens as to the risks involved with using pharmaceuticals, and make sure that they are aware of the dangers and the possibility of death. Don’t keep a lot of old and unused medications hanging about in the medicine cabinet. If you’re finished with the pills but have some remaining, dispose of them properly. Also, be aware of the quantities of medicines used regularly, and if you seem to be refilling prescriptions for certain drugs more often than you think that you should…this may indicate a problem.

Be involved and try to be a part of your teen’s life. It can be difficult to determine whether changes in behavior are a normal part of adolescence, are in fact caused by something more sinister, but by staying active in your teen’s life, you are in a better position to spot trouble before things get serious. We as parents can only educate our kids as to the dangers, be on the lookout for trouble, and hope for the best. It is truly a frightening time to be the parent of a teenage kid.