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The Ohio Department of Aging

Ohio Department of Aging Boomerang: It all comes back to you!

Boomerang: It all comes back to you!

My Family - March 2011

A prescription for prevention
Prescription drug abuse is a family problem

Is your family safe from the risk of prescription drug abuse? In Ohio, abuse affects all ages, from middle-schoolers to grandparents. Forty percent of teens consider the abuse of prescription drugs to be much safer than illegal drugs, a 2010 Prescription Drug Abuse Task Force study found. According to a study by the Nationwide Children's Hospital's Center for Injury Research and Policy, overdoses - mostly of painkillers and psychotropic drugs - were most common in those 35 to 54 years old and were three times higher in rural areas of the nation. The Center for Substance Abuse Prevention estimates that 17 percent of Americans age 60 and older abuse prescription drugs or alcohol.

Drug abuse doesn't happen to only 'other people' in big, urban areas.Drug abuse doesn't happen to only "other people" in big, urban areas. The prescription drug abuse epidemic is ravaging all parts of Ohio and is having devastating effects on families just like yours. If someone in the family is abusing prescription drugs, the whole family feels the pain.

According to the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the keys to preventing prescription drug abuse in your family are to control access to medications, promote their safe use and dispose of them properly:

  • Store your prescription drugs in a safe, secure place, preferably one that locks.
  • If more than one family member takes prescription drugs, store each person's medications in a separate place.
  • Count your pills regularly.
  • Encourage all members of your family to take their medications strictly as prescribed.
  • Pay attention to expiration dates on prescription labels and do not use expired medicines.
  • Mix unused and expired drugs with coffee grounds, kitty litter or another undesirable substance and place in a sealed container before disposing in the trash.
  • Prescription drugs should not be flushed down the toilet unless specifically instructed to do so.
  • Where community prescription drug take-back programs exist, they are a good way to dispose of unused pharmaceuticals.

The signs of drug addiction in young people can range from seemingly harmless lapses in judgment to involvement with law enforcement. It can be easy to write off these warning signs as teenage angst or youthful indiscretion. Similarly, since most elders take prescription drugs for legitimate health problems, it's easy for family members to miss the signs of prescription drug abuse. Signs of abuse, such as memory lapses, disorientation and loss of balance often are explained away as natural effects of aging.

If you're beginning to think a loved one may have an addiction problem, don't feel guilty for not recognizing it sooner. Drug abusers can be good at concealing their symptoms and usually downplay their problem. Remember that you can't force an addict to change; you can only encourage them and help them get help. You may be ashamed of your loved one's behavior, but don't cover up or make excuses for a drug abuser, or shield him from the negative consequences of his behavior. Most of all, avoid confrontation while he is under the influence of the drug. It is just plain dangerous to hide or throw out an addict's drugs or to argue with him when he is feeling their effects.

The Ohio Department of Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services can help families find a provider in their neighborhoods that can help the entire family cope with addiction. Call 1-800-788-7254 for a referral.


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