“The Talk” About Prescription drugs and the Dangers of Addiction

by Bradley DeHaven

You have a choice when it comes to learning about drug addiction, you can learn on your own terms or you can learn when you are forced to. Would it surprise you to discover that drug overdose deaths bypassed auto accidents in 2011 for the first time since they have been tracking these statistics in the early 1970’s. The average age of first drug use has dropped every year and hovers 13 years of age. Average!

If you are anything like my wife and I, then you are pretty sure that your child will never become a drug addict. If your child is anything like my oldest son or hundreds of thousands of other teens they are invincible and addiction will never happen to them. I have personally talked with over 1000 parents of addicts as well as the addicts themselves. Two things are consistent: One; I have never met a parent who thought their child would become a drug addict. Two; I never met an addict who planned on becoming addicted.

Get information

The internet is a treasure trove of information and with just a few clicks in Google you can detect what just about any pill is. You may find a pill in your child’s room, or it may sit in your kitchen cupboard. Use any numbers or letters you see on the pill. Perhaps the color or shape of the pill will lead you to information about it. You will discover the intended purpose of the drug, the way it is abused by addicts. You may even find videos showing how people abuse it.

Step One: Lock up your medications and alcohol

Encourage other homes your child has access to; to do the same. Family members including grandparents; homes they may babysit; neighbors and friends. Locking Meds is as important as locking up a gun. They are both deadly in the wrong hands. You child proofed your home when you brought your little bundle of joy home. Now it is time to teen proof your home. Not just from your kids but the many friends who will pass through your house.

Step Two: Share the information with your child

Create an atmosphere of mutual responsibility and open communication. If you are on medication for anything and your child knows it, read the disclosure that comes with the drug with your child. Use the internet to obtain that same information on any drug. Ask your child to stop you from reading by raising their hand every time they hear something like the side effects “may cause you to stop breathing, or death.” This will cause them to pay attention and get both involved and informed. Pull up the information on drugs you know are being abused. Print out the disclosure for that drug. Underline or highlight the words like “death,” as they appear frequently in many drugs.

Step Three: Start a dialogue

Ask your child to suggest some drugs he or she has heard about and look those up as well. Talk about addiction as a disease. Talk openly about drug tests, not as a threat but as a helpful deterrent if your child ever feels pressure to try a drug. Read my book, “The Addict Among Us” which is based on hundreds of interviews and teachable moments. Read other books on the subject. Read them as family alternating chapters to promote unity. Look closely at your child’s attitude during this event.

We used to fret the “birds and the bees” talk. Now we must have the talk about addictive, dangerous and deadly drugs. These drugs are now conveniently located in the medicine cabinets of our homes and the homes which surround us. It is more important than ever to start this discussion early and often. The drugs that are abused today are far different from the drugs that were abused when we were teens. This is where we as parents make the big mistake of thinking we know it all. Drugs are a moving target and you need to know that the only thing certain is change.

We naturally trust our doctors, and for the most part we should. That does not mean we can’t question their diagnosis and the prescriptions they write. We need to ask for non-addictive alternatives and ask if the drugs they are prescribing are addictive. If they are and these drugs are necessary, we as parents should dole them out so they don’t get “lost” or “stolen.” We need to volunteer family history to our doctors in front of our children. This creates a dialogue which is not coming solely from you as the parent. Do not exercise blind faith. Sometimes, we might need to tough it out with pain or discomfort. Make sure our children don’t see prescription medication as the cure-all for every symptom or ache.

What you should do if you suspect your child is using drugs

Two things:

1) Drug Test.

2) Drug Test.

Drug Tests don’t lie. Drug Addicts do. See my Blog on proper testing methods. Are you uncomfortable drug testing your child? If so, try these tactics to ease your reluctance and I promise you will not appear like you don’t trust your child:

“Johnny, I know you are growing up and meeting new friends and there might be situations where someone has drugs at a gathering or event. I want you to know that I love you and I would never want you to take something to hurt yourself. I have this drug test (plop it on the counter at this point). If someone tries to get you to try something and you feel pressured, you can tell them that your parent has a drug test at home.”

Give your child someone else to blame to avoid peer pressure. Don’t be afraid to use the drug test either. Tell your child that if they were showing signs of any disease, including addiction, that it is your responsibility as a parent to seek treatment for them.

Dialog is the key to a healthy parent-child relationship, not threats. Education and awareness beats the alternative every time. If you are informed and your children know it, they are less likely to experiment and discover that no one is invincible.

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