Prescription drug abuse is on the rise and one of the fastest growing groups of abusers are teenagers. But, what most parents do not understand is how quickly teens turn to heroin when their supply of prescription medication runs out.
Here, we’ll review the basics of this turnover, and offer some safety tips for your home supply of pain medications. More here, with a section at the end for your questions.
Heroin Is Coming To A Home Near You
Until quite recently heroin used to have the reputation of only being found in the seedy parts of major urban cities. That reputation has been shattered by the prescription drug abuse epidemic in the United States. Heroin can now be found in practically every community regardless of size or location.
Since heroin is chemically similar to the prescriptions OxyContin and Percocet, when a prescription drug addict’s supply runs out heroin is an excellent substitute. It’s cheaper. It’s more effective. And heroin is getting easier and easier to get.
Many people do not know heroin was formerly a prescription drug. In fact, until the 1920s heroin was regularly prescribed, including to children, as a pain killer. It was only discontinued as a prescription pain medication because of its high potential for addiction. So how is heroin related to the prescription drugs and painkillers of today?
Pain killers contain drugs called ”opioids”. Opioids are made-made synthetic versions of opiates: codeine, morphine, and heroin. The main ingredients found in these prescription meds include:
While some are used to TREAT drug addiction, others get kids addicted. Oxycodone, for example, is the active ingredient in both OxyContin and Percocet. Oxycodone is also nearly identical to heroin. All three drugs are derived from the same source—the opium poppy.
From The Doctor’s Office To The Street
Today’s heroin addict unfortunately usually becomes hooked in the doctor’s office, or from the home medicine cabinet. It all starts innocently enough as your teen is injured in sports or a car accident, for example. You take them to the doctor where after the x-rays and diagnosis the doctor pulls out a white pad and writes a prescription for something to relieve the pain. Or, your teens gets a painkiller from a family member or a friend.
Know now that drug dependence is a natural, normal progression of using pain killers. There is nothing inherently wrong with relieving pain. However, when the medication is misused in any way full-on addiction is not far away. Unfortunately, there is no rule for how quickly someone can become addicted. If your teen needs prescription pain medication monitor their use and do not let them have full access to the medication.
Safety Tips for Parents RE: Painkillers
- Discuss the dangers of prescription drugs with your teen.
- Set and enforce rules about the medication.
- Facilitate a meeting between your child and your doctor or pharmacist to review proper use and side effects,
- When your teen has recovered dispose of the unused medication at an authorized location but never flush them down the toilet.
If you begin to suspect your teen is misusing their prescription medication, act immediately. Dealing with prescription drug abuse NOW can prevent you from having to deal with a heroin addict in the future. The most successful recovery starts with swift intervention. Unfortunately, nearly 25% of teens report they have the impression their parents do not care if they are caught using prescription medication. You care, so let them know right away.