Prescription opioid misuse | How to protect your family from the opioid epidemic

Apr 18, 2022, 4:08 PM | Updated: Sep 8, 2022, 4:22 pm

Prescription opioids can be disposed of during National Prescription Take Back Day...

FILE: SLCPD to participate in National Prescription Drug Take Back Day. Photo: Adobe Stock

This article about prescription opioid misuse is presented by Know Your Script.

The pandemic has left a lot of people struggling in all sorts of ways. Unfortunately, studies have shown that prescription opioid misuse has increased since COVID-19. And prescription opioids are still the top cause of overdose deaths. So what do you need to know about these opioids? And how can you protect your family by knowing your script?

Prescription drug abuse facts

Prescription opioid

Photo: Adobe Stock

Most of the latest prescription drug abuse facts come from the following 2021 SHARP report. Some of the most concerning stats include:

  • An increase in 6th-8th graders abusing prescription sedatives.
  • An increase in anxiety/depression in student mental health. Plus, feelings of isolation can lead to greater access to prescription stimulants and sedatives.
  • A decrease in the perceived risk of youth sharing and abusing prescriptions.
  • Overall, youth attitudes have shifted leading more toward potential drug use.
  • Teens are abusing everything from pain medicines to stimulants, sedatives, and tranquilizers.

So how can you do your part to prevent misuse?  The easiest way is by properly storing, or disposing of, your prescription drugs. Over 50% of misused prescriptions come from friends & family. 47% of youth say it’s easy to get prescriptions from a parent’s medicine cabinet. 27% of teens believe getting high on prescription drugs is safer than street drugs. And 15% of Utahns flush prescriptions down the toilet, which contaminates groundwater. Medications that are improperly stored or disposed of can literally have an effect on everyone around you. 

How can you store your prescription medications?

Prescription opioid

Photo: Adobe Stock

Make sure you keep prescription medicines in a safe place and avoid stockpiling them. Especially since almost half (47%) of teens reported that it’s easy to get prescription drugs from a parent’s medicine cabinet. So make sure you immediately and properly dispose of any unused prescription medicines.

How can you dispose of prescription opioids and other prescription drugs properly?

Prescription opioid

Photo: Adobe Stock

The best option is to find a secure dropbox in your area to dispose of unused prescription medications. Check knowyourscript.org (About halfway down the page) for their map of dropbox locations closest to you.

If you can’t get to a dropbox you can mix medications with kitty litter, a soiled diaper, or used coffee grounds and place them in a sealed device (like a plastic bag) before you throw them in the trash. But DO NOT crush pills or capsules. And DO NOT flush medications down the toilet. Finally, make sure you scratch out all of your information on a prescription label before discarding them.

As a parent how can you talk to your kids about prescription opioid misuse?

Prescription opioid

Photo: Adobe Stock

Prescription drugs can be every bit as dangerous as illicit or illegal drugs. And some prescription drugs can even have a higher chance of addiction and misuse. But, nationally, 1 in 6 parents believes that using prescription drugs to get high is safer than using street drugs. More than 1 in 4 teens (27%) share the same belief. 

Parents are the first line of defense when it comes to educating about the dangers of prescription medications. Talk to your kids about prescription medicines, and don’t assume that illegal drugs are the only threat to them. You’ll also want to remind them that taking someone else’s prescription or sharing theirs with others is illegal. And overall, just providing a safe and open environment for your kids to talk about abuse issues can play a huge part in preventing them from abusing or misusing prescription medications. It’s been shown that teens who learned about the dangers of misusing prescription drugs from their parents or grandparents were 42% less likely to abuse prescription drugs than teens who did not talk to their parents or grandparents. You can even encourage your kids to ask you or a doctor about the negative side effects of prescribed medicine, how to watch for them, and what to do if a negative effect is suspected. Finally, you can also monitor your teen’s use of the internet, especially for any illegal online purchases.

Just know your script

Prescription opioid

Photo: Adobe Stock

You can find out more information about the opioid epidemic in Utah at knowyourscript.org. Know Your Script focuses on educating and empowering parents to know what part they play in having a conversation with their children about the dangers of prescription medication. 

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Prescription opioid misuse | How to protect your family from the opioid epidemic