Today’s parents need to do more than deliver motivational speeches to their teens about the dangers of drugs and alcohol. The stakes are just too high. Sometimes parents are even more vigilant over their teens’ academic or athletic diligence than signs of potential drug use. Unlike grades or scholarships, the lasting impact of drug and alcohol use can impact every area of a person’s life.
While they’re not as significant as other drugs, prescription drugs are far more prevalent than parents or other adults would have guessed. According to a well-reputed 2009 survey of 16,000 teens by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a surprising 23% of teens said they had taken prescription drugs not prescribed to them. At the top of the list were ADHD drugs such as Adderal. OxyContin and other opioid drugs prescribed for pain relief were also revealed to be popular choices — probably because they’re often easy to access. Some authorities recommend keeping all medications in a locked cabinet, protecting kids from accidental poisoning as well as intentional abuse.
The Pillbox website developed by the National Library of Medicine was developed for the express purpose of identifying unknown pills. Providing both images of pills and information such as ingredients and labels, this resource can help parents identify mystery medications they find their children possessing.
Although abuse of prescription drugs and illegal drugs are far from being non-issues, alcohol is still the most prevalent among teens. As a strong influence on motor vehicle accidents, the number-one cause of teen deaths, the importance of keeping your teens from drinking while driving cannot be overstated. The top suggestion by U.S. News & World Report? Have a clear, unmovable family policy: “No alcohol, drugs, or tobacco until age 21.”
While texting while driving is a hot topic (and definitely one that should be addressed), it is far from the only risk teens take while driving a motor vehicle. In the same survey cited above, high school students reported an alarming rate of combining alcohol with driving. In the 30 days prior to the survey, the following percentages of high school students reported engaging in motor-vehicle-related risky behaviors:
• 9.7% of teens reported that they “never” or “rarely” wear seat belts as a passenger in a car driven by another person
• 9.7% of teens admitted that they’ve driven at least once after drinking
• 15.4% of high school seniors said they regularly drink and drive
• 28% of teens had ridden in a vehicle driven by someone who was intoxicated at the time
These kinds of behaviors often come with consequences that eliminate the opportunity for a “second chance.” Lives are at stake. Futures hang in the balance. Your teen’s GPA won’t matter on his tomb stone — or in a jail cell.