BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. The Waismann Foundation today released “Ten Things You and Your Family Should Know about the Dangers of Prescription Painkillers,” the second installment of the foundation’s weekly “Drug Awareness Month” educational series. As the number of opiate dependencies in the U.S. continues to rise, it is critical that parents are armed with the right information to educate their children on the dangers associated with prescription painkiller abuse, and are also able to recognize the telltale warning signs of abuse, according to Dr. Clifford A. Bernstein, chairman of the Waismann Foundation and specialist in chronic pain management and opiate dependency.
“Children are being introduced to the recreational use of prescription painkillers at a much younger age than most would expect and are gaining easier access to them,” said Bernstein. “However, once they become aware of the consequences, they can make more intelligent, informed decisions.”
According to Bernstein, prescription drugs can easily make their way into and out of households and taking the time to talk to family members about the dangers of prescription painkillers could be a preventative measure that lasts a lifetime.
Dr. Bernstein offers parents the following advice about:
The 10 things you and your family should know, about the dangers of prescription painkillers.
1. Face the Facts. Denial can prevent you from recognizing a real problem at home. Among youths and adults, non-medical use of prescription painkillers ranked second only to marijuana in illicit drug use according to the 2002 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.
2. Acknowledge it’s All Relative. Legal or not, prescription painkillers are just as harmful as street drugs. Prescription painkillers like Oxycodone are synthetic (man-made) opiates, the family of drugs from which heroin is derived.
3. Keep an Eye Out for the Graduate. Children as young as 13-15 years old can easily graduate from abusing Oxycontin (a legal opiate drug) to abusing heroin (an illegal opiate drug). The two drugs have similar effects, therefore attracting the same abuse population.
4. Leverage What’s Newsworthy. Take advantage of incidents in the news to talk to your family about painkillers. In March 2004, a Phoenix fourth-grader took her mother’s prescription painkillers to school and gave them to her friends. A few of the children were hospitalized, while the young girl was taken to the police station and suspended for the year. Making an example out of a story like this helps to discourage children from trying drugs.
5. Don’t Assume It Can’t Be You. You’re not necessarily in the clear if your child is head cheerleader or the class president. Not all kids who abuse prescription drugs are dark, depressed, and troubled. Drug use has become increasingly frequent among a variety of groups of young people.
6. Beware of Emotional Rollercoasters. Changes in a person’s normal behavior can be a sign of dependency. Shifts in energy, mood, and concentration may occur as everyday responsibilities become secondary to the need for the relief the prescription provides. Other signs to look for are social withdrawal, desensitized emotions (indifference or disinterest in things that previously brought them pleasure) and increased inactivity.
7. Watch Out for Going Grunge — Your child’s personal hygiene may diminish as a result of a drug addiction. Significant weight loss may occur, and glazed eyes may indicate an underlying problem.
8. Become a Micro Manager. If your child is prescribed a pain-relieving medication, closely monitor the dosage and
frequency the drug is ingested. Also, if you or your spouse is prescribed a prescription painkiller, be sure to keep it out of your children’s reach and dispose of any extras once you no longer need it.
9. Play it Smart. Listen carefully when your doctor or pharmacist gives you instructions for a drug for a family member. Provide your doctor with a complete medical history so he or she is aware of other medications being taken and can prevent a negative interaction. Finally, never increase dosage or the frequency of taking a medication without consulting your physician.
10. Trust Your Instincts. If you suspect that a family member is abusing prescription drugs, consult his or her doctor or seek professional help right away. Medical professionals can refer you to treatment programs but the most important thing is to seek help in a timely matter.