How to Know if Your Child is Abusing Prescription Drugs


It may not surprise you that recent studies show one out of every four teenagers will abuse prescription drugs in their lifetime. But you may have not known that experts say more kids die abusing prescription drugs than cocaine and heroine combined.

As parents,  we’re trained to teach our kids about the dangers of abusing drugs; our efforts tend to focus on illegal drugs.

It is easy to overlook our own medicine cabinets, which can filled with half-used prescriptions from a past medical procedures or illnesses.

“70 percent of adolescents are getting these prescription drugs from their family or their friends,” says Tammy Cohen, the corporate director of pharmacy for Baylor Health Care System.

Cohen says prescription drug abuse, especially among teenagers, continues to rise across the nation.

One of the biggest misconceptions teens have is thinking that if a doctor is prescribing the drug then it can’t be dangerous.

“If you take a prescription drug for a medically-necessary reason and you take it as prescribed by a physician, it can be safe and effective,” Cohen says.

“But if you take a prescription drug, for a non medical reason, it can be just as dangerous or lethal as an illicit drug,” she added.

This week, the Dallas Independent School District (DISD) reached out to parents after learning several of it’s students at Thomas Jefferson High School overdosed on prescription drugs.

It was a way to raise awareness for parents and help recognize symptoms of drug abuse in their children.

Symptoms like extreme mood swings, drastic changes in their appearance or hygiene, or the need for isolation.

“Know your child, know if their behavior changes, know if they are using code words for different agents,” Cohen says.

“There are a lot of code words that teens use to talk about drugs peer to peer. The best piece of advice for parents is to just get rid of old prescriptions in your home. If you no longer need it, there is no point in keeping it around.”

Watch Tammy Cohen’s conversation with WFAA-TV on prescription drug abuse.

About the author

Craig Civale
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Craig is a storyteller at heart. He joined Baylor after a 15-year career as an award-winning broadcast journalist, most recently at WFAA-TV in Dallas as a reporter.

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How to Know if Your Child is Abusing Prescription Drugs