Dangers of Prescription Drug Abuse Highlighted During National Safety Month

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As part of National Safety Month in June, families are encouraged to learn about the dangers of prescription drug abuse—along with how these drugs are obtained.

“Prescription drug abuse often starts with a legal prescription, or from someone diverting pills from a friend or family member,” said Karen Wolownik Albert, Executive Director at Gateway Alcohol & Drug Treatment Centers. “National Safety Month is a great time to remind parents and families about the issue of addiction and how it may be prevented.”

Poisonings are the leading cause of preventable deaths among 25 to 64 year olds, largely from drug overdoses and prescription opioids, according to the National Safety Council.

“Because these drugs are prescribed by a doctor, many people falsely believe they’re risk free, but prescription drugs can be just as addictive and lethal as illicit drugs bought on the street,” Albert said. “Your brain and body sees no difference between a prescription opioid like hydrocodone and street-purchased heroin.”

Young people are particularly vulnerable when it comes to prescription drug abuse and addiction. Teens prefer prescription drugs as their drug of choice, second only to marijuana, according to the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. Teen brains are not yet fully developed, and can be very sensitive to drugs and alcohol. Frequent use of drugs and alcohol may permanently alter or impair brain development.

Gateway offers these steps parents can take to reduce the risk of prescription drug abuse within their families:

  • Use medications only as prescribed or directed on the label.
  • Keep such medications in a secure and concealed location.
  • Don’t share prescriptions with a friend or family member.
  • Properly dispose of unwanted or expired prescriptions to keep them from falling into the wrong hands. Local pharmacies or the police may accept unwanted medications.
  • Monitor family members for any unusual behavior if they’re taking prescription drugs, especially young people who are more susceptible to risk taking and addiction.

Warning signs of prescription drug abuse include changes in health such as sleeping habits, energy level, hygiene, appearance or weight loss. Other signs might include changes in friends, personality or a loss of interest in school or other activities.

Gateway offers a free downloadable guide to prescription drug abuse at: RecoverGateway.org/RxDrugs

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