From the GIC Summer 2014 Newsletter file size 2MB
The prevalence of teen and young adult drug abuse has been increasing at alarming rates. Pharmaceutical opioid abuse is the driving factor behind a tripling over the last three decades in the number of drug overdoses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Pharmaceutical opioid abusers often switch from prescription medications to heroin due to its lower cost and greater strength.
Opioids, a class of drugs derived naturally or synthetically from the opium poppy, depress breathing. Overdoses occur when opioid concentrations are so high in the body that they begin to cause respiratory distress. The Centers report that as many as 20 percent of American teens have abused prescription drugs. About half of U.S. high school teenagers say that narcotic drugs other than heroin would be easy to get, according to a 2012 National Institute on Drug Abuse survey. This same survey found that nearly 1 in 12 high school teenagers reported nonmedical use of Vicodin and 1 in 20 reported abuse of OxyContin.
As a parent, you hope your child does not become one of these statistics, but the predatory lure of drugs is pervasive. “Establishing open communication with your teen or young adult is critical,” said Donna Moores, M.D., Massachusetts Medical Director for Beacon Health Strategies. The National Crime Prevention Council recommends getting involved in your children’s lives, spending time with them doing activities they want to do; making clear rules and consistently enforcing them; being a positive role model; and talking to your children about drugs and how to handle social pressures to use drugs.
Be on alert for these potential signs of drug abuse in your teen or young adult:
- Marked changes in attitude, loss of interest in going to school, a drop in grades, and attendance issues
- Socializing less with friends or losing friends
- Falling asleep at odd times during the day or nodding out at dinner
- Spending more money than typical
- Red eyes, weight loss or weight gain, and skin abscesses or bruises
Also pay attention if you’re missing:
- Items of value in your house
- Prescription medications
“If you are concerned about opioid abuse, check medications in your home to be sure they are locked up or properly disposed of,” said Dr. Moores. Many police departments accept disposal of unused drugs. Contact your city or town government’s household trash and recycling service to see if a take-back program is offered and visit the Drug Enforcement Administration’s website for drug take-back day details. If you want to dispose of the drugs on your own and don’t have the disposal instructions, take the medications out of their original containers, mix them with unused coffee grounds or kitty litter, and place in a sealable bag. Conceal or remove any personal information, including the Rx number, on the empty container by covering it with permanent marker or duct tape, or by scratching it off, before discarding the container and sealed bag in the trash.
If you suspect that your teen or young adult is abusing drugs, get help. Take advantage of resources available through your child’s school, college, or primary care doctor. You may need to enlist additional help from your child’s guidance department, clergy, or coach to get your child into treatment. Contact your health plan or mental health carrier to get the right treatment.
Drug abuse is a long term issue and relapses can be expected. “If a child is abusing drugs, it’s not just the child’s problem, it’s the whole family’s problem and the whole family will need to address it,” said Dr. Moores. Take care of yourself too, as you will need support. Al-Anon helps families of problem drinkers and drug abusers with coping techniques and support. If you are enrolled in Tufts Navigator, Tufts Spirit and all of the UniCare Indemnity Plans, take advantage of Enrollee Assistance Program benefits through Beacon Health Strategies. The GIC urges all of our members who are dealing with drug abuse to seek help for your loved one and yourself.
This information provided by the Group Insurance Commission .
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